NFOP x Kometenmelodien: copeland, Jabu, and Lief Hall at Berghain Kantine

25 Nov 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Very honoured to have been given to curate the next edition of Kometenmelodien's precious concert series at Berghain Kantine, happening Wednesday next week, December 3rd. For the night, we've chosen some absolute NFOP darlings, familiar to anyone who has been following this website over the past years or who's even just periphally interested in cutting-edge pop music one and a half decades into the third millenium: Young Echo members Amos Childs and Alex Rendall aka Jabu are coming across the Channel for a rare live rendition of their sublime blend of Child's productions informed by Bristol's boundless heritage and Rendall's soft-spoken vocal intervention, before (Inga) copeland is blessing Berlin for the first time since releasing her superb debut full-length Because I'm Worth It earlier this year. The night will be opened by Berlin-based artist Lief Hall, who will present her new live set that she first performed live on our BCR show back in April – revisit the stream below.

We're giving away 1x2 guest list spots for next week's show. Just write an email with the subject "copeland" to before Friday, November 28th, at 12pm.

Find more details about the event over on Facebook.

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NFOP Presents: Polymorphism x PAN

19 Nov 2014 — Henning Lahmann

When I asked PAN's Bill Kouligas about his label's relationship to its physical home Berlin for a piece I wrote for the magazine of the 2014 edition of CTM Festival back in January, his response sounded very familiar: Arriving in the city in 2009 after a few years in London (where PAN was founded), his main motivation had been the cheaper rents, which made sense for the development of the young label. And while Berlin has certainly had a significant impact on him, he considered PAN still somewhat detached from the city's electronic music scene, with its strong focus on the dancefloor and thus club-ready productions. To be sure: it seems save to say that Kouligas' imprint by now has become one of the most admired outlets for experimental electronic music on a global level, yet while most will be aware where it is based, there is no inherent necessity to actually call it a Berlin label. To the contrary, it is a prime example of one of those aesthetic missions that are so strongly connected to their initiators that their home will naturally be wherever they decide to settle; that may be London, Berlin, or Athens, Kouligas' hometown.

However, starting with the releases of Heatsick's resolutely non-Berlin house oddball transmissions and Rashad Becker's masterpiece Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I last year, PAN has recently developed a more intimate relationship with its current home, more precisely with a very distinct part of it: Berlin's ever-growing – in number and significance – expat community. In 2014, Kouligas has continued to tap into this scene, putting out Scythians, an excellent EP by US native and Janus fellow M.E.S.H., followed by Objekt's long-anticipated debut full-length Flatland, surely one of PAN's most high-profile releases to date. Both artists are also part of the current roster of CTM's Berlin Current initiative, a picture-perfect alliance that will be celebrated in its appropriate setting at Berghain this Friday, November 21 as part of CTM's Polymorphism series. Accompanied by NFOP favourites Helena Hauff, Lee Gamble, and Visionist, as well as Beneath and JM Moser, the night promises to become one of this year's club highlights. As media partners of Berlin Current, we're presenting the event, and that's only one reason why we couldn't recommend it more emphatically.

Find more details over on Facebook.

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Win Tickets for CTM’s Monolake 2015 Live Preview at Volksbühne

10 Nov 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Continuing their Berlin Current project, the curators behind CTM (after recently having announced the first wave of artist for the festival's 2015 edition) are set to present project fellow Ame Zek, a Croatia-born artist who's been part of Berlin's electronic music scene since his arrival in 2005. Zek's excellent debut full-length Rostfrei finally arrived in June of this year on Keep It Business, showcasing his highly interesting and challenging approach to contemporary club culture. Structurally reduced yet invariably intricate and complex, Zek's arrangements are the perfect accompaniment to the music of Berlin eminence Robert Henke aka Monolake, who is coming to Volksbühne on Thursday, November 20 to present a sneak-peek at a new project – a bit of a consolation, of course, as the originally scheduled performance of Henke's Lumière project had to be postponed to next year. Joined by Tarik Barri for the visuals, we can be sure that the night will be remarkable enough.

For more details, check out the event's Facebook page. We're giving away 1x2 tickets for the show. Just send an email with the subject "Monolake" to before noon (CET) on Friday, November 14.

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Stream: Lotic at Unsound (exclusive)

29 Oct 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Of the three different stages inside Krakow's decaying late-communist Hotel Forum – the venue where Unsound's main club nights are staged on the festival's closing weekend – Room 3 is probably the toughest to unleash a proper party in, at it's essentially a large bar by design, not exactly a dancefloor. Which is why, I'd argue, it takes some particularly talented or rather ruthless DJs to keep up the excitement for a whole night. Enter Berlin's Janus crew, who took over the room on Friday night, running on a bill programmed by Unsound together with CTM's Berlin Current project, as reported earlier. Unsound's Polish and international crowd didn't hesitate to buy into the vibe, providing a setting that in its best moments at least came very close to the most relentless nights at Janus' home base Chesters. As per usual, Lotic's hour was especially marked by a dazzling, unapologetic yet infectious eclecticism, and we're happy to exclusively present the live recording of his set below, which was kindly provided by London's NTS Radio.

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Unsound Preview: Janus / Kablam

15 Oct 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Krakow's Unsound Festival started on Sunday and so far it's been a Golden October dream, perhaps despite that true nightmare that was the early afternoon showing of Andrzej Żuławski's 1981 relationship drama-cum-horror movie "Possession" that I'm still trying to wrap my mind around. "The Dream" is also this year's festival theme – described by the curators as "a symptom of a world where self-expression and experience are increasingly mediated and commodified. It plays out on laptops used for work and leisure, in networked coffee shops, airports, international 'artistic enclaves' and nightclubs. Anxiety is its underside: those Living The Dream often do so in precarious financial situations, while in the background, ecological, political and economic systems lurch towards collapse; war looms on the horizon, threatening to escalate."

In more than one sense of the word, in the past few years Berlin has become The Dream for more and more musicians from all over the world, who mostly seem to come to the city in the search of exactly that: a place that is somewhat detached from the troubles of globalised late capitalism, where artistic expression is still possible due to a still comparably reasonable cost of living, and an overall attitude just liberal enough to not become an obstacle. Whether Berlin really is or has even ever been that dream place is one question, the other more pressing is in which way the expat community itself has started a process that's fundamentally changing the dynamic of the city's social geography. Soon, it'll be time to reflect on the sustainability of the dream. Artists have already started leaving Berlin again, moving to Leipzig or further east, with Krakow among a growing list of cities that now embody the illusion of a culturally rich location that willingly provides the means to devote yourself entirely to creative activity, without being forced to compromise. Which begs the creeping question – has it ever been about Berlin at all? "How do ideas of locality – or the lack of them – affect culture?," asks the panel "Place/Displace/Non-Place" at Naodowy Stary Teatr on Friday at 3.45, featuring some writers who should have to say something about that as expats in various European locations themselves.

However for the time being, legitimately focusing on the upsides of Berlin's evolvement into a truly global creative hub, the Musicboard-funded Berlin Current poject by CTM Festival has started to showcase some of the exciting aspects of the expat scene along the Spree. Over the past two years the Janus night has certainly become the epitome of New Berlin. Still, considering the aforementioned, it isn't entirely clear whether the scene around Janus is even a Berlin thing – or merely something that was started here by accident. After its first Berghain night last Friday the Janus crew is coming to Unsound Festival this week. In anticipation of the event and in order to explore some of the topics just mentioned, we spoke to resident DJ Kajsa Blom aka KABLAM via email. Read the interview after the break.

CTM's Berlin Current showcase featuring the Janus crew is part of Unsound Festival's night "The Ticket That Exploded Part 1", happening at Hotel Forum on Friday, October 17. More information on the event is available over here.

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Try to describe Janus in one sentence.

Hype, hate, copy

In which way does the night's concept embody an approach to club music that was missing in Berlin?

I would say its concept is genre-crossing, rude, more fearless and more diverse than what usually is being served in Berlin’s nightlife.

What does Berlin have to do with it in the first place? You've had a night in NYC already and now you're gonna be at Unsound. In which way is Janus' sound essential to Berlin; could it exist without the city or is its location wholly incidental anyway?

Having a space like Chesters really played a big role. A space like that would probably be impossible to find in NYC or Stockholm. It was not too big, not too small and had a great sound system for that size. It worked as this residency where we could try out things. For me having never really DJ’d before, this was the perfect place to try out things and learn.

What do you like about the Berlin crowd? Do you find it particularly open-minded or rather the opposite, still fixated on techno and house?

The ”Berlin crowd” is quite diverse I would say, but there is definitely still a huge crowd fixated on techno and house. Don’t get me wrong, I love dancing to hard techno, and I really respect a good techno DJ, but it’s almost like a different occupation. Using the CDJs you can manipulate the tracks in ways you can’t do on a record player. I think a large part of the Berlin crowd still wants to see DJs who play records, but I believe that’s slowly changing too.

How long have you been in Berlin now? Do you think that the place is getting more or less interesting? What are some developments that concern you?

I’ve been in Berlin for two years, but I am currently in Stockholm to write my BA thesis. I definitely think it’s getting more interesting, but that is my individual experience. I think it is intact with me discovering more parts, areas and scenes, opening up my eyes and ears more and more. 

Janus is usually depicted as this Brooklyn thing that came to Berlin – by the New York Times anyway. You are from Sweden, right? How did you get in touch with the rest, and how do you fit in from your own perspective?

I am from Sweden, but I am half-German. It is kind of not a Brooklyn thing-- no one in the Janus crew is from Brooklyn. I was not a part of Janus from the beginning but I was at almost every Janus party before I became a resident, and that’s how I got to know Dan, Michael, J’Kerian (Lotic) and James (M.E.S.H.). I had never felt at home in a club environment before. I loved how they approached the whole idea of what a club can be and I loved how they played so fearlessly. Last August Dan asked if I wanted to play a Janus night; I said yes although I had never really mastered the CDJ-2000 before. So I watched some Youtube tutorials, went there and played a bunch of Jersey club tracks and they liked it. I can’t point out exactly what it is that we share that make us work together, we just belong together, it just makes sense.

What are you trying to achieve with your own work? What's your main incentive to do the stuff you're doing?

Whoa, what am I trying to achieve…? I guess I want to produce something that sounds exactly like me in that moment. But it’s also about being fearless, not being afraid to fail. It’s gonna sound corny maybe, but I think my main incentive lies in the creation of ’the new’. When new thoughts and ideas are born, just in that moment, there is a sense of complete freedom. Of course new ideas aren’t born out of nothing like some kind of magic, most of the time they are born as an opposition toward existing norms. I hate genre categorization for instance, this is something that is flooded by norms. I hate the genre term ’IDM’ (Intelligent Dance Music)-- why is that type of music more intelligent than other dance music? EDM is not less intelligent than IDM. Let’s talk about what it actually sounds like and how it makes us feel. Let’s stop forcing music, and people, into categories that they have not asked to be a part of.

Adding this spatial dimension, like a more or less public space where these ideas can take form and be introduced and exchanged, that makes it real. I used to think my music experiments were made just for me, but I was wrong!

What's next for you artistically? What do you expect from the Berlin Current funding? Is there anything in the works already that you could tell us about, or is it mainly your participation in the showcases?

It is mainly my participation in the showcases. The night we did at Berghain was the most insane and beautiful, and now we are doing another night at the Unsound festival on Friday with Dj Hvad and Amnesia Scanner. I am super excited! I don’t know what’s next. With my own stuff I am still trying to figure out what direction to go in and it is an interesting phase because it takes me to all kinds of places.

Win Tickets for the CTM Prelude with Suzanne Ciani at Volksbühne

08 Oct 2014 — Henning Lahmann

The 16th edition of Berlin's cherished CTM Festival will kick off on January 23, 2015 under the theme Un Tune, but already on October 24 you can have quite a significant foretaste of thing to come when American synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani plays Volksbühne to improvise on the legendary Buchla synthesizer for a collaboration with Neotantrik aka Andy Votel and Demdike Stare's Sean Canty. Having released some of Ciani's early work on their acclaimed imprint Finders Keepers in 2012, the two already built an intimate artistic relationship with the composer before launching the current project together. The video below shows the trio at a performance at Lincoln Center in New York City in April. The evening will be completed by another stunning joining of forces, Mark Fell coming together with Keith Fullerton Whitman to coalesce their approaches to electronic music radicalism.

We're giving away 1x2 tickets for this highly recommended show. Just send an email with the subject "Suzanne Ciani" to before October 20, 12pm CET.

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NFOP Recommends: Polymorphism x Janus

07 Oct 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Though unfortunately dubbed "Brooklyn Bohemians" who spread out to "invade Berlin's techno scene" by none less than the New York Times in February of this year and equally unfortunately included in Electronic Beats' rather ill-fated because oddly biased list of "Five Berlin Club Nights That Have Nothing to do With House or Techno", the folks of Janus have done a lot to make this city's club scene a lot more colourful and interesting in the past few years, and that holds true even if you're not the biggest fan of their chosen location, Chesters. This Friday however, the Janus residents KABLAM, M.E.S.H., and Lotic are about to leave their familiar playground in order to "search for the sound that doesn't exist" in a place that's famous for its very distinct definition of a proper Berlin weekend night and yes of course, Ms Blanning, it has very much to do with house and/or techno. Luckily though, Berghain is of course open-minded enough to welcome the 4/4-evasive renegades for another installment of CTM's Polymorphism series, which will host the principal Janus artists as part of their Berlin Current project, which is still proudly supported by No Fear Of Pop. The three will be accompanied by a fine selection of bass-inclined musicians Jam City, Total Freedom, boychild, TCF, and DJ Hvad. Warmly recommended by us – if you ever wondered what a Janus night would look (and sound!) like beyond the realms of Chesters, you know where to go this Friday.

Check out more details on the FB event page over here.

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Watch: UMA “Calm/Easy”

03 Oct 2014 — Johanne Swanson

I wanna know all about how your mind knows how to feel calm and easy. Did you try eating raw, maniacally pressing green juice, or doing a shit-ton of yoga? Maybe you surrounded yourself by beautiful things and popped some pills, but eventually found that the best plan of action was to get messy with a pile of Benjamins. These are at least our suggested strategies on the new video from Berlin's very own UMA, producer power couple Ella and Florian Zwietnig. Get a little blurry with their highly polished, perfect-pop-song sensibility and be sure to catch their dynamic live show on the remainder of their European dates. Here at NFOP, we're especially looking forward to tonight's performance at Kantine am Berghain with Florida's Hundred Waters

"Calm/Easy" is off UMA's debut self-titled album out last May on Austria's Seayou Records. They are currently in the midst of a European tour with the following dates remaining:

10/3 Berlin, GER - Kantine am Berghain
10/4 Ausberg, GER Augsburg - Soho Stage
10/6 Winterthur, SUI - Portier
10/8 Graz, AUT - Steirischer Herbst
10/9 Munich, GER - Milla
10/10 Bern, SUI - Dampfzentrale
10/11 Nürnberg, GER - USG 6

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