NFOP Presents: Berlin Current at CTM 2015: UN TUNE

20 Jan 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Berlin is a city associated with bodily music. It’s the mediated yet immediately perceptible connection between the sounds of the club and the movements of the dancer which is the most obvious manifestation of Berlin representing the physical. It makes a lot of sense, then, to devote the coming edition of CTM Festival to “works by artists who explore the direct bodily effects of frequencies, sound, and music in order to address and disturb the human body in troubling and emphatic ways,“ in the words of the curators.

Like last year, the festival will again incorporate select artists of its Berlin Current roster, the on-going project that showcases musicians based in the city who explore the boundaries of contemporary experimental pop, funded by the Senate’s Musicboard and presented by No Fear Of Pop. More than just including twelve of those artistic endeavours, which should not come as a surprise, there’s a deeper nexus at play: of course, calling Berlin home, being inspired by the town’s cultural currents as well as its history as one of the breeding grounds of electronic music, all these artists also have an intimate relationship with music that transcends the purely sonic realm, reaching into the tangible world of objects and bodies. When talking to Phoebe Kiddo for Berlin Community Radio and RBMA last Friday, she revealed that for her these sounds serve almost as the essence of the city. So be it the aggressive, direct physicality of acts such as OAKE, Ketev, or Shaddah Tuum, the more futuristic, transcendental approach by Kiddo’s new project MINDBODYFITNESS, TCF or KABLAM, or the corporal, noire pop of Born In Flamez, Berlin’s new breed perfectly encapsulates the festival’s 2015 edition’s theme.

So while we’re sure that you might mostly be looking forward to the bigger names like Carter Tutti Void, The Bug, Alec Empire, Evian Christ, Mumdance, and all the other international heavyweights – which is of course totally fine – you definitely should check out at least some of the Berlin Current artists. Here’s where you’ll find them:

Amnesia Scanner – Berghain, Thursday, 01/29

Born In Flamez – Yaam I, Saturday, 01/31

Jesse Osborne-Lanthier – Yaam III, Saturday, 01/31

KABLAM – Panorama Bar, Thursday, 01/29

Ketev – Yaam III, Saturday, 01/31

Moon Wheel – Panorama Bar, Thursday, 01/29

OAKE – Yaam III, Saturday, 01/24

Opium Hum – Yaam I, Saturday, 01/31

Phoebe Kiddo – Astra, Sunday, 02/01

Sarah Farina – Yaam II, Saturday, 01/31

Shaddah Tuum – Yaam III, Saturday, 01/24

TCF – HAU 2, Thursday, 01/29

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Magic Island “So Tender”

16 Jan 2015 — Henry Schiller

To claim that Magic Island's "So Tender" is more aurally daring or sophisticated than bedroom pop might seem a bit disingenuous. What Magic Island (AKA Emma Czerny) has crafted is, first and foremost, a sparkling piece of pop music. But when we take the track by its sonic roots it's easy to see that Czerny has drawn from an unusual combination of musical ouvre, and that “So Tender” is - despite the safety net of pop it shrouds itself in - actually pretty weird.

Czerny seems to be drawing from two distinct pools. On the one hand, we have the kind of sugary - if deceptively sparese - synthpop born out of a music industry realization that synthesizers weren't just for the bedroom dwelling intellectual set. On the other hand: the heavier, artier, ethereal-wave fare that stomped the 1980s to death in northern Britain and Iceland.

The cheap Casio keyboards that feature prominently on “So Tender” were presumably designed to, if nothing else, emulate the wave forms produced on the more sophisticated machines used by by people like Brian Eno and Vangelis, and later, to less overwrought ends, by groups like Soft Cell and Yazoo. On the other hand, Czerny's vocals keep a spiritual distance from the kind of music that her songwriting would naturally put her in league with (somewhere on the line between FKA Twigs and AlunaGeorge), incorporating instead the more piercing bombast of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser.

The result is a satisfying conflict of intimacy and spaciousness; music that hooks you like all good pop music should but keeps you tangled up in its weirdness.

Magic Island's Wasted Dawn EP is out February 3 on Mansion and Millions.


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Stefan Jós “Inside Voices” (exclusive)

15 Jan 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Stefan Jós is one of the many guises of Southern Californa producer Devon Hansen, currently calling Montréal home, whose other project Lotide left us thoroughly enchanted with Moonless, a cassette released in 2013 on London outlet Astro:Dynamics. Things You Left Behind, Hansen's latest upcoming work, isn't the first offering as Stefan Jós. Last year, the moniker appeared already on We Live Here, a compelling split with NFOP favourite Austin Cesear on Opal Tapes. This time around however, the project's direction seems to have shifted. Still minimal and based on noise, the arrangements are less contemplative than before, openly aiming at the dancefloor. EP lead track "Inside Voices", premiered below, is a case in point: built around straightforward 4/4 kicks, the track unfolds into a glacial, rigid piece of techno.

Things You Left Behind is set to be the first 12" released by Japanese imprint flau's new subdivision raum. It will be out February 25. Pre-order now over here.

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NFOP Presents: unhappybirthday

14 Jan 2015 — Henning Lahmann

"Curiously nostalgic and comforting" is what we thought about the music of Hamburg outfit unhappybirthday when premiering their wonderful tune "Keanu" back in September, and even though the winter so far has either felt like an inapproriate extension of late fall or an eerily premature spring, there's certainly the need for more coziness in Berlin. Rather fittingly, the three musicians refer to their music as 'raincoat pop', so we urge you to leave your umbrella at home and join us at Kreuzberg's Monarch next Wednesday, January 21, to watch the trio perform more warm and fuzzy lo-fi tunes to solace your dreary winter heart.

Presented by No Fear Of Pop, the show starts at 9pm and is 8 Euros unless you send us an email to with the subject "unhappy" before Monday, 12pm CET, to get the chance to win 1x2 guest list spots for the event.

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Review: Disappears “Irreal”

13 Jan 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

There are few labels that have successfully curated an artist roster that abridges the rather wide and sensitive gap between quality electronic music and rock. If we were to say that said gap has at all narrowed in the last ten years, we could quite naturally thank Kranky. Chicago's novel, "going nowhere slow" label exemplifies that the key to such strenuous effort isn't only through recognizing how avant-garde and ambient are genres more agreeable for those with guitar and drum ears; it also argues curation, how a consistent aesthetic and resilient, unwavering self-definition can win the hearts of others. Consistency creates feelings of safeness and trustfulness for just about anybody. For example, the Kranky website hasn't changed, ever, and that very quality has afforded some of us plans for long-term fandom. Kranky also somehow embodies the unqiue personality combination of solemnness plus funny. Above all, Kranky in its subtle ways advocates a genuine emphasis on sound itself, love of sound. It broadcasts that listening is an artform within musicianship, a talent bullied and overrun by proactive instrument playing. Can't a musician be a musician by his or her style of listening, sans guitar and/or synth collection?

Disappears' upcoming fifth Kranky release, Irreal, accents the inveterate label in a new way, and excavates big observations about Kranky as a whole. Though a rock band drawing strongly on psychedelic soundscapes and gospel spokenword, who have toured and collaborated with Steve Shelley, Disappears have tapped into a vein that travels from rock and indie toward electronic music and listening advocacy, without turning to synths and drum machines, or dance music. This feels executed mostly by Irreal's foregrounding of the drum kit, triggered, layered, and edited at a different if not later stage of making the record. By placing the effect-heavy drums prominently, as much so as vocals, we experience more of a pro-sound album, not overrun by rock motifs and traditional instrument assembly. Guitars are undoubtedly present, however working as if physically behind the drum kit. They assist in completing and stregnthening the, or any drum kit's nearly infinite range of frequency and particular type of solemness and thunderous emotionality. On Irreal, these traits are even more so unleashed, unlimited, and explosive, staring straight at you, in the face.

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Stream: Dreampeter “Snakes Eating Snakes | side A” (exclusive)

12 Jan 2015 — Johanne Swanson

Snakes Eating Snakes is the first full-length from Dreampeter, a duo composed of Peter Wiley (Pascäal) and Matt Gilles (llloyd), that was quietly released January 1 of this new year. Despite that discretion, it is flawless in execution by virtue of debut from Ways Inner Pass, a cassette label founded cross-continentally by Wiley and Gilles of Austin, TX, and Berlin's own Cory Levinson (Kohwi). Our blog-conscious readers may recognize these three from the now defunct Zen Tapes, a music blog they were involved in while attending the University of Michigan, or their current participation in the Portals community. Ways Inner Pass' strength is in concept, combining the humble physicality of a cassette release with that which only translates online; Snakes Eating Snakes is paired with a mini-site that ebbs and flows differently with each visit while the record plays on loop (the horizontal symbols on the right side of the page indicate which track you've entered upon.)

Musically, Wiley and Gilles have created a piece that is sparse and lush where it demands. There is a clear sense of melody in their whirrs, sputters and audio samples of friends talking, water flowing, chimes in the wind. This ambience is greatly appreciated at a time when drone all too frequently correlates with aggressive noise. According to Dreampeter, the release is "a reflective statement on the peculiar stasis of hometowns, a remark on the perpetual alienation and dilapidation of old residences...a conversation between the specters of the past and the reality of today." Thusly, Snakes Eating Snakes

Snakes Eating Snakes is out now on Ways Inner Pass. Order a copy of the hand silkscreened cassette here, Blue Lace Agate healing stone included, and be sure to spend some time with the digital mini-site

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Broshuda & Giganta “Gardens”

07 Jan 2015 — Richard Greenan

Gardens, gardens, gardens! They're all here in this intriguing and beautifully packaged tape comp, out on London imprint videogamemusic. Sprouting from a track mutually-tended by Broshuda and Giganta, Gardens Volume One comprises two sides of re-mulchings from an array of ferric luminaries.

We kick off with the lead-lined window box of AL-90, before sidling towards Beatrice Dillon's rustly, playful "Sapwood". The curation here – in typical vgm style – is pretty flawless, and the variety quite joyful. HOLOVR's acidy, squelchy-verdant patch is another highlight, as is the whirling patter of newcomer Devon Loch. Too many names to mention, really. 

Gardens seems to be the perfect celebration of a burgeoning scene - an international group of tape beat manipulators more interested in collaborating or pushing boundaries than stardom. The wobbly, purple tape inlay deserves its own mention - designed by Broshuda himself and printed beautifully on riso. Grab a copy here.

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Jam Money “Aroma Of Snow”

30 Dec 2014 — Richard Greenan

Boutique British label Spillage Fete come up trumps with this magical 12" by Jam Money. Stephen McRobbie of The Pastels opines it would've made a fine release on his ace Geographic imprint, and Blowing Stones certainly has a meandering, rustic charm that outreaches the provincial setting of village greens and bake-offs.

Here are songs that clank into life like some sort of benign, clockwork machinery, emitting distorted epigrams of guitar and synth fed forwards and backwards through a 4-track at various speeds. There's an apologetic-sounding clarinet. There's a wobbly chime thing. It is immensely comforting.

Get Blowing Stones here.

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