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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NFOP Recommends: Hannah Diamond at Südblock

15 Sep 2014 — Johanne Swanson

We can be thankful for our times and the categories of gender fluidizing; meaning more or meaning less, one thing is sure: those comfortable binaries of 'man' and 'woman' are being dismantled. A net label like P.C. Music in this context, with its founder and primary producer A.G. Cook and starlette Hannah Diamond proselytising all things girly, proclaiming we look good in pink and blue, isn’t just aesthetics, it’s borderline dissident. The linear range of cute to subversive is getting fucked, and we couldn’t be having a bigger party in the process. It’s so immoderate, so garish, that FACT Magazine has called them “the most divisive recent event in UK music.”

The few shows that Hannah Diamond has played have been described as “Hannah Diamond ft. The Audience, who are shouting the lyrics at her and at each other like it's the only song anyone knows.” Thanks to our friends over at Creamcake, we’ll see how our likely-more-reserved German audience responds this Saturday at Südblock as Hannah Diamond makes her Berlin debut with A.G. Cook in support. Bring your girlfriends, bring your boyfriends, and hold their hands while you yell along, oh Hannah, we’ve waited for soo-ooo-ooo long for a grrrl like you. RSVP here.

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Preview: Decibel 2014 NFOP Favorites

13 Sep 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

Last year Kelsie and I had the pleasure of attending Seattle's beloved and rather large Decibel Festival. While the overall curation of this event was and will continue to be professionally executed, one thing that stuck out as a negative was the line-up's startling lack of female artists. This year, however, there are more than a handful female artists, as well as a wide range of acts that use electronic instruments in various ways to relay diverse messages. By presenting an expansive line-up, Decibel ends up appealling to all types of music lovers, whether techno and club music agrees with them or not, which is a deed that affectively and somewhat diplomatically assists in adjusting the North American attitude toward electronic music. Starting small and intimate, dB has turned into a crucial beacon for techno advocation and forward thinking in the States. It is put on yearly by passionate fans and strong believers in the many assets offered by this world of music and sounds.

Below is a list of NFOP-recommended artists who are playing this year. Some of them you will know, some of them might be new to you. Some we have collaborated with and reviewed, others we will be supporting, or continuing to support, in the years to come. I'll post a recap post-festival.

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Natasha Kmeto – Portland (Dropping Gems/Federal Prism)
Natasha has made several appearances on NFOP. For proudest example, she contributed a guest post last year in response to our feelings on Decibel's 2013 line-up. Apart from proving to be a reliable voice in political matters within the arts, Natasha's music is compelling, bold, successful in blurring the lines between genres, which helps blurs the lines of conventions, and, yes, it is sexy. With its hues of r-n-b, otherwise clubby grooves and understatedly fantastic beat work, there is something for everyone in her grooves. Further, her live sets are brilliant, full of energy and sweat. She works the crowd like an MC, like a DJ, like a back-up singer taking center stage for thirty minutes or more, like a professional performer. I've seen her live twice now, and I imagine the third time will be even sweatier.

Natasha's performance will be part of the commencing showcase, or Opening Gala, Sept. 24th at the EMP Sky Church. Accompanying her groove will be visual work from EFFIXX, whose aesthetic consecrates the place where all tricksters hang out, that nexus of unlikely components. In this case, its technology, mysticism and mythology.

Ana Sia – San Francisco (Frite Nite)
With Ana Sia, you can experience both some minimal techno attitude and comprehensive, animated percussion. The tracks are filtered through aberration, equipped with frequent swells and corresponding perigees, and embedded with archetypal vocal samples, Detroit style - it's nastily delicious. It's upbeat but semi-dark, breakbeat-ish, and demonstrative of Ana's playful command. Take “Imma Boss” for example, where a warehouse melody greets us with cadenced drums, which transform around more than that rave melody. Isn't it usually the opposite? Ana Sia runs appropriately with the Bay's Frite Nite crew.

Ana Sia will be playing the 24th at Neumos for the Bassdrop Presents Showcase between Seattle's WD4D and the one and only Prefuse 73.

Sassmouth - Chicago (God Particle)
Sam Kern aka Sassmouth has been behind the wheels for years upon years, actively pursuing the challenge of connecting songs as seamlessly as possible, without ever dropping the mood. Sometimes, such a task requires smaller bits and bolts, neutral ground, and suggestive, repetitive flare. As the founder of the God Particle label, which operates solely to manufacture, release, and promote simple, straightforward bits and bolts to fill and level out mixes, Kern can be considered a conduit for the house DJ continuum, a clever fan and musician who has augmented and celebrates the side of DJing that requires "filler" songs. She is also somewhat of an icon for the neverending pure, midwestern house mix, even though the mix does end. 

Sassmouth will be playing Sunday the 28th alongside Brian Lyons vs. Nordic Soul and London's T.Williams at Re-Bar.

Total Freedom – Los Angeles (Fade To Mind)
I've had two random club-drop-ins where Total Freedom was in overwhelming command of the crowd. Both times, I freaked out dancing uncontrollably, throwing away the idea that I was only going to be there for thirty minutes. Ashland Mines' authority is accomplished and maintained by frequent song-changing and a fast-but-not-too-fast tempo. Additionally, there's some kind of appetite for noise afoot in his sets as well as productions. It isn't dubstep, it isn't d-n-b throwback either: it's Total Freedom. Additionally, Mines is an active and influential collaborator, and has worked with Kelela, Gang Gang Dance, Nguzunguzu and many others.

Total Freedom will appear at the rather enthralling Optical 1: Kinesthesia Showcase on Sept. 24th at the EMP Sky Church. Basically, it's important that you make it to this session, because Arca will be performing with Live/AV from Jesse Kanda followed by more live/av from Max Cooper and The Sight Below. Optical 1 is likely to be a comprehensive experience in where noise, post-pop hip-hop, and techno mysticism all collide.

Rrose – New York (Eaux/Sandwell District)
Deliberately obfuscating and somewhat politically satirical via dark yet rich textures, Rrose is doubtlessly one of today's most innovative producers. Spiritual and avant-garde, Rrose emerges from the Sandwell District realm, a place revered for poignantly perfect techno packaged by images of skulls, dead birds, and other Halloween-all-year tokens. Despite this tone, the sounds of Rrose are extremely healing by way of their intrinsic softness, gradualism, and unapologetic repetitiousness. Parts of what is represented through this act touch on the same ethos that Nik Void of Factory Floor and Chris & Cosey evoke, however with less colors: a history of techno before techno gestated, combined with modernity's industrial weariness, all in the language of contemporary techno.

The Pitchblack Showcase at Re-Bar on the 24th will likely be one of this year's strongest events, complete with Vatican Shadow and Black Asteroid.

Cock & Swan – Seattle (Hush Hush)
Our own Kelsie Brown noted Cock & Swan's musical longevity half a year ago. Their sound can be described as indie dreamscape with soothing lyricism, as it uses just enough electronics to get to where they need to go. At times they display inclination toward old school downtempo, Lamb-like or Alpha-like structures. As part of the Hush Hush label, where Slow Year and Chants likewise reside, Cock & Swan stand out as perhaps the more organic act available on the roster; that isn't to say they don't fit harmoniously in what the overall atmosphere of Hush Hush is. I find Hush Hush a bit nostalgic for the early Leaf Label, with solemn and well-garbed artists. It's music that channels the sound of rain against the window on most days.

Cock & Swan will play the Hush Hush Showcase Friday Sept. 26th at the JBL Theater with Slow Year, Hanssen, and Kid Smpl.

Braids/Blue Hawaii – Montreal, CA (Arbutus/Full Time Hobby/Flemish Eye)
Braids and Blue Hawaii are NFOP all-stars, and their commonality, Raphaelle Standell-Preston, can be regarded as one of our favorite singers. Braids are originally Calgary and now Montreal-based production geniuses, touching on glitch, experimental, and pop. Their rather devoted international fan base speaks a volume or two to the quality and emotionality of their live performances. It's indeed fascinating to watch drummer Austin Tuffs play the piano part in the gorgeous, rainy track “Girl” on his drum pad (which he isn't doing in this video); it's stimulating to witness their detailed electronic songs deconstructed and played by physical movement. Braids are an exemplary and literal electronic music band.

Blue Hawaii is made of Standell-Preston and her dear friend Alex Cowan. Their second release “Untogether” caused quite a ruckus within the NFOP community as well as the neo-pop subculture. Its dancey, sentimental complexity, seen by the cover image of the two members embracing and disappearing as they do, reflects on the contemporary attitude toward relinquishing youth, physical distance, and confusing friendship for romance. Check out NFOP's BCR show with Alex here.

Definitely catch Braids do their spectacular thing at The Crocodile on the 24th for The Haunted Pop Showcase, which also will host Son Lux, Manatee Commune and Helado Negro. Blue Hawaii will play the Sines Of Life Showcase on the 26th at Showbox alongside El Ten Elevent, Yppah, and Vox Mod.

Andy Stott – Manchester, UK (Modern Love)
Stott is the prince of slow disco, or perhaps by now, the king. Drawing on UK bass, ambient, dub and some other kind of divine but not cheesy force, Stott's work engenders that we silently contemplate ephemeral matters, impermanence, and wet dreams about time travel as the music washes over us. Frequently coded over with striking vocals while the melodic aspects throbbingly waver in and out of clear earshot, this is the music of the death of summer as well as truths about where the big 2012 cultural shift is leading us – not to an apocalyptic place, I'd say. That's too singular of an answer.

YES YES YES YES Modern Love Showcase also with Millie & Andrea (Miles Whitaker and Stott) and Demdike Stare is at the EMP Level 3 on Friday the 25th!!

ASC – San Diego (Auxiliary/Silent Season)
Really excited to see James Clements on the line-up. I've liked his sparse, beautiful music for some years, as it can go into either aggressive jungle territory or back to childlike wondering-what-it's-like-to-fly curiosity. With plenty of indication of UK hardcore and drum-n-bass in his work, ASC also manages to bring something timeless and personal to the world of ambient pad music. It's a pastoral, overcast, chilly place, which makes one think, “Just five more minutes, then back inside for tea.” Clements' latest Truth Be Told is Bvdub-esque, meditative lamentation for something perpetually out of reach. It was released by Vancouver's Silent Season imprint, which lauds the vastness of foggy temperate rainforests and the creatures that dwell therein. As opposed to some of his older work, Clements' fresher sound is coded with genuine praise for all things beautiful and the human experience. Such declaration correlates with the growing cultural trend of using technology and digitally produced sounds to better commune with the natural world. There is so much to learn from this seeming paradox, and I'm not just saying that because it's been important to me for most of my life.

ASC is part of the Silent Season Showcase on the 26th at the JBL Theater. Be sure to not miss a DJ set by label founder Jamie McCue, Segue, nor visuals from Danthon.

Oneohtrix Point Never + Nate Boyce - New York (Warp)
DID YOU KNOW that OPN recently went on tour with Soundgarden and the Nine Inch Nails? It's true, shocking, and pretty profound. This tidbit probably settles with most of us agreeably, for OPN's music implies a type of laziness and Nintendo Peter Pan personality, who still has Soundgarden posters up in his bedroom, above the dirty clothes bin. Boyce's early 90s, glistening apartment aesthetic fits OPN's melted video game cartridge sound. Need I say more?

OPN + Boyce will be performing at Optical 3: Playful Discord alongside Kangding Ray and Atom TM's HD/AV at the EMP Sky Church. Really looking forward to this - it'll be an event that re-centers its audience about where/how the recent exhumation of interest in walking through dissonant, atonal spaces originated.

Nordic Soul – Seattle (Decibel/Studio 4//4)
Nordic Soul is Sean Horton's DJ guise. As the founder of dB, Horton commonly plays showcases, which is doubtlessly one of the ways for Horton to more fluently interact with attendees, attendants, and artists. I had the pleasure of first catching a Nordic Soul set here in Missoula, Montana during the inaugral DAT Music Conference. Horton threw down classics new and old, covered a range of styles but never with any kind of strain, confusion, or lack of vividness. There remained a certain amount of dreaminess throughout those two hours. It was wholesome, devoted, and somewhat transcendental.

Catch Nordic Soul and Bryan Lyons dualing set Sept. 28 at Flammable: Decibel Edition going down at Re-Bar alongside Sassmouth and T.Williams.

Isis Graham – Calgary, CA (Substation)
There's been more and more substantial material being broadcasted out of Alberta. Apart from Normals Welcome, an Edmonton-based label, Calgary's Substation Recordings has the goods. Isis Graham, a considerably prolific producer and remixer, gets the job done with cadenced house and easily consumable clubby grooves. As an integral part of the Girls On Decks collective, Graham can be treated as a succeeding advocate for quality techno plus gender awareness in Canada. Such a revival in Canada surely speaks to a greater North American call-to-arms for forward thinking electronic music. At it since the late 90s, Graham is a hand of perseverance and stylistic wisdom.

Go out with a bang closing night at the All Gone Pete Tong Showcase with Tensnake and Pete Tong himself Sept. 28th at Q.

Vatican Shadow – Los Angeles (Hospital Productions/Blackest Ever Black/Modern Love)
Complete with Reich referencing, black and white color scheme, and dark, hypnotic, and militant tracks, Dominick Fernow's project concurringly affliates with Blackest Ever Black as well as Modern Love, but mostly releases on his own Hospital Productions, along with work by Silent Servant, Ron Morelli, and Kevin Drumm. Since the late 90s, Fernow has been busy working to bring industrial techno and meandering, dark dance music together in unqiue ways, and so far, we're barely touching the tip of the iceberg. His latest, Death Is Unity With God, is an extensive release bearing several apposite titles for the moniker created only to comment on and convey post-Catholic apocalypse esoterica. 

Catch VS Sept. 24 for the Pitchblack Showcase at Re-Bar.

NFOP Presents: Girl Band at ACUD

03 Sep 2014 — Henning Lahmann

While we had to admit to be mildly irritated by their name, The Quietus thinks of Girl Band as "Dublin's finest exponents of hulking, screech-laced noise rock", and who were we to argue with London's finest analysts of contemporary dude rock? Right. There's a brand new video for the band's latest single "De Bom Bom", which we called fresh and angry and aimless, and while avoiding the word "rock" like the plague, we did say noise and forceful and revolt and put all these words into one single sentence, which now makes us seem like the palest imitation of the London lads' mighty wordsmiths; so the joke's really on us, basically. Anyway, what we wanted to point out originally was that the release of said video is only too fitting, as Girl Band are coming to town this Saturday, September 6, more precisely to the wonderful ACUD in Mitte, and the whole thing is presented and warmly recommended by, who would have thunk, No Fear Of Pop. So come by, if only in order to punch us in the face while we're providing pre- and post-show DJ mimicry, playing music that will probably feature noise, but certainly no rock.

Ignore what we just said and check out the event details right here.

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Win Tickets for the CTM Showcase at Berlin Music Week

01 Sep 2014 — Henning Lahmann

As part of our commencing cooperation with CTM Festival's Berlin Current, we are presenting this Friday's night at Urban Spree within the framework of Berlin Music Week's showcase programme First We Take Berlin, as reported earlier. The line-up looks sublime – if you've somehow missed out on Sarah Farina, Ketev, Moon Wheel, Lief Hall, Phoebe Kiddo, and Opium Hum so far, this will be your ultimate chance to make up for it. And if it's still not enough reason to spend money on it or you find yourself to be short on Euros at the moment, here's the deal: We're giving away 1x2 tickets for the showcase on Friday. Send an email to with the subject "Berlin Current" and a friendly message before Thursday, 12pm.

See you there.

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Preview: Torstraßen Festival 2014

25 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Summer might be on its way out, but luckily that mostly means that the city's live music landscape is getting more interesting again. Last week, we told you what to do and see during the upcoming Berlin Music Week with its attached showcase festival First We Take Berlin, and we also told you that you might not want to spend your money on Berlin Festival (though we want to emphasise that if The Editors really happen to be your thing, you certainly have our blessing too, we're not judgmental – not all the time at least). If new and under-the-radar stuff is what you're looking for – and we assume it is, because why would you even read this website if it were not? – then FWTB will certainly offer plenty for you, but in that case we'd even more warmly recommend the fourth edition of the glorious Torstraßen Festival, happening this Saturday, August 30, in numerous bars and small clubs on and around Berlin Mitte's Torstraße. Especially if you're wondering what's hot among Berlin-based artists at the moment, there's probably no better occasion to find out, considering the organisers' well-informed and aware booking which focuses heavily on the home-grown crop.

Regarding specific recommendations, there are really too many artists to mention, as we think the line-up this year is seriously the best yet. However, let us mention that it would be a real shame if you missed NFOP favourites Alexander Winkelmann, Yohuna, Magic Island, and Fiordmoss. Also, we'd like to point out that our friends at Berlin Community Radio are hosting the stage at St. Oberholz, and the program there looks really compelling, so you might want to check that out, too.

While unlike last year, we won't have our own curated stage this time around, but No Fear Of Pop will be present at the festival in collaboration with our friends and partners of Cartouche magazine:

Happening at Kim Bar (Brunnenstraße 10) and starting at 2pm, we offer DJ sets by Montana-based musician Experimental Housewife and indie pop duo absurd&hanebüchen who will present outré pop tunes from both past and present, followed by a live performance by krautrock outfit Ej Bekot at 8pm. But there are even more reasons for you all to drop by: Cartouche magazin is going to celebrate the release of its fifth issue, which is set to feature pieces on some of the artists performing that day at Torstraßen Festival 2014. Stratosfear, the label curated by the people behind Berlin-based blog No Fear Of Pop, will display and sell its 7″ vinyl singles. And to top it all off, a cherished if forgotten popcultural ritual will be revived: autograph sessions with selected artists of the festival! Finally, your culinary desires will be taken care of by Neukölln café Two Planets, serving their celebrated authentic New York bagels and brownies all afternoon.

Update: Unfortunately, Experimental Housewife had to cancel. In her stead, Robin (aka rkss) and Cory (aka Kohwi), who aready rocked our four-year anniversary party back in February, will play unexpected and underappreciated electronic music for two hours. Should be just as much fun!

Find the details about our event here and about the festival in general over here. Get your ticket now online for the reduced price of 13 Euros. It will be 15 on the day of the festival. Check out the schedule plus an extensive Soundcloud playlist of all performing artists below.

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4pm Susanna Berivan
6pm Miss M.E
8pm Will Samson

Waldo Bar

3pm Lambert
5pm Federico Albanese
7pm Tom Adams
9pm Uri Gincel Trio


4pm Dylan III
6pm Blindspot
8pm Africaine808

Kim Bar

8pm ej bekot

St. Oberholz

2pm Blackest Ever Black (DJ)
3pm Terekke
5pm Physical Therapy (DJ)
6pm Magic Island
8pm Alis
9pm Bass Gang

Gaststätte W. Prassnik

5pm Alexander Winkelmann
7pm ATMA
9pm Yohuna

Kaffee Burger

3pm Fiordmoss
5pm Banque Allemande
7pm Alexander Geist
9pm Julie Byrne


2pm Skiing
4pm Brangelina
6pm Sun Worship
8pm Oum Shatt

Platoon Kunsthalle

8pm Evy Jane
9pm M.E.S.H.

Roter Salon

2pm Susie Asado & Pablo Dacal
4pm Zugezogen / Maskulin
6pm Chris Imler

Grüner Salon

3pm Islaja
5pm Perera Elsewhere
7pm Momus
9pm Siinai

Introducing: CTM x NFOP – Berlin Current

22 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

As already mentioned in our Berlin Music Week preview on Tuesday, No Fear Of Pop is proud and happy to be the official media partner of the forthcoming second season of CTM Festival's groundbreaking Berlin Current project. In the coming weeks and months, we will provide interviews with and features on the participating Berlin artists, both here on the website and on our weekly show on Berlin Community Radio, especially in anticipation of specific Berlin Current events in Berlin. We hope to be able to provide you with more profound background on the project and its subject, our city's exciting and ever-changing underground music scene, contextualise the artists and labels that are featured and their impact on Berlin's current musical landscape, and the influence the city has on artists who live and work here, be they from Berlin, from somewhere else in Germany, or part of the continually expanding expat community. Of course, it's a big part of what No Fear Of Pop has been striving for since the start: while focusing on music from UK, the States, or challenging scenes in other countries, this website has been on the constant lookout for interesting things happening around the corner. Despite the mildly critical position we have decided to maintain, we do firmly believe that in all its incoherent weirdness and aimlessness, Berlin is one of the most exciting places to be in 2014, and we think that the city's diverse music scene appropriately reflects this unique and probably finite setting. In this state of illusive utopia that Berlin at times manages to unfold, music seems to play a role so crucial for the city's self-identification that for once it again is more than just another cultural commodity of late capitalism. As fittingly put by musician and NFOP staff writer Johanne Swanson in her piece for Portals this week: "This place knows that art is a social practice." Berlin Current sets out to unearth, advance, and catalyse those undercurrents in the city's contemporary musical landscape that embody this perception of pop as relevant for the progress of culture.

Below, you'll find the list of participating artists and events that are scheduled so far, followed by, in order to properly launch No Fear Of Pop's accompanying coverage of the project, excerpts from an essay I've written for this year's CTM Festival catalogue, which was published in January.

Participating Artists

Ame Zek
Amnesia Scanner
Born in Flamez
Dasha Rush
Golden Diskó Ship
Kathy Alberici
Lief Hall
Moon Wheel
Opium Hum
Owen Roberts
Phoebe Kiddo
Sarah Farina
These Hidden Hands

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Berlin Current in Berlin


Sarah Farina, Ketev, Moon Wheel, Lief Hall, Phoebe Kiddo, Opium Hum
Berlin Music Week, at Urban Spree


M.E.S.H., TCF, KABLAM, Lotic, with DJ Hvad, Boychild, Jam City, Total Freedom
at Berghain


Ame Zek, with Robert Henke
at Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz


M.E.S.H., Objekt with Beneath, Visionist, Lee Gamble, Helena Hauff, JM Moser
at Berghain

Berlin Current International

September 6: at DEKOLECTIV

OAKE, Lotic, with Helena Hauff und Christian S.
Presented by Rokolectiv Festival, Halele Carol, Bukarest (RO)


Ketev, Moon Wheel, Dasha Rush, Born in Flamez, Sarah Farina
STUK Arts Centre, Leuven (BE)

September 26-27: at TODAYSART

09/26: Sarah Farina, with Fatima al Quadiri, Planningtorock, The Gaslamp Killer
09/27: Moon Wheel, OAKE, Phoebe Kiddo, with Kiasmos
TodaysArt Festival, The Hague (NL)

October 17-18: at UNSOUND

10/17: Amnesia Scanner, KABLAM, Lotic, M.E.S.H., with Total Freedom + TBC
10/18: TCF
Unsound Festival, Krakow (PL)

October 18: at RIAM

Moon Wheel, Phoebe Kiddo, OAKE
RIAM Festival, Marseilles (FR)

October 23-25: at MUTEK.MX

M.E.S.H., Objekt, rRoxymore, Born in Flamez
MUTEK.MX, Mexico City (MX)

Looking Beyond the Beat: Discontinuities in Berlin’s Musical Landscape

In the preface to “Lost and Sound”, his stocktaking of the Berlin electronic music scene at the end of the noughties, Tobias Rapp suggested that it might be too early for the drafting of a proper historiography of techno and its entanglement with the city. Yet four years later, despite proving its undaunted vitality every single weekend in countless clubs across town, techno nostalgia is in full bloom. In his anthology “Berlin Sampler” from 2012, French journalist Théo Lessour dedicates a whole quarter of his book to the phenomenon, implicitly defining techno as the pinnacle of the city’s musical development. That it effectively amounts to Berlin’s continuing contribution to the world cultural heritage since 1989 has by now become a commonplace.

However, while of course there has always been music made in the city aside from techno, only in recent years a different story began to unfold in the shadows of the overarching club scene, a story not exclusively yet in large part told by Berlin’s ever growing expat community. Distinct from the dance scene, which already started to become more internationally shaped after the turn of the century, those artists may have chosen Berlin as their temporary or permanent home without having been attracted by the city’s reputation as a techno mecca. More prosaically, what almost everyone mentions are the favourable economical conditions that make the German capital still so much more affordable than any other major city in the Western hemisphere.

The work of those newly arrived artists does challenge the dominance of dance music in Berlin. Still, a common denominator is hard to find. What connects the psychedelic soundscapes of Swedish improviser Olle Homberg aka Moon Wheel with the futuristic beats of Houston native Lotic, or in which way does the experimental proto-dance of Australian producer Phoebe Kiddo relate to the fierce noise attacks of Milan’s Shapednoise? If anything, what they create is a broadly understood version of pop, “a multiplicity of artistic practices that derive from and actively participate in certain cultures of the everyday”, as defined on the website of Berlin Current, the project initiated by CTM Festival to unearth some of the artists that represent this ‘new’ strand of Berlin’s diversifying musical community.

For the time being, discontinuity with the prevalent narrative of Berlin as the city of techno is mainly propelled by and channelled through institutions such as the Senate-affiliated Musicboard and the projects funded by it, for instance Berlin Current. By starting to map the newly emerging ‘scene’, thus boosting the visibility of musicians that stand apart from the clubs, those organisations attempt to associate the music with a more broadly outlined notion of Berlin as an international cultural centre. Whether this effort has already come to fruition in the eyes of the wider audience is a different question.

Berlin is attractive as a place to live and work for its perceived ‘otherness’. Thus, appealing more due to what it is not – not as expensive, not as restrictive, not as ‘settled’ or ‘finished’ as other cities – than what it actually stands for. In this sense, it serves as an empty vessel, to be filled with the ideas and expectations of arriving members of the transnational creative class. Whatever the shape of the Berlin musical landscape may look like in the near future, it will most likely remain in a struggle with the image of Berlin as techno capital, a standing now written in stone. This already is evident in the discourses of today. While the fading cohort of natives and first-wave newcomers mourns the lost utopia of early to mid-90s Mitte wonderland, those expats who arrived before the turn of the decade long for a bygone paradise that ostensibly still existed only a few years ago. To see the past in ever brighter colours mirrored against the present’s perceived staleness is certainly not exclusive to Berlin’s musical landscape. But since the fall of the Wall and the subsequent opening of seemingly endless possibilities amidst the city’s ruins and abandoned spaces, feeling stuck in past marvels appears to be a narrative so peculiar to Berlin that by now it may be considered the artistic community’s only true continuity. For the incoming musician, this situation might even provide comfort, for it spares them the subtle obligation to adapt to any predefined and settled scene. However, it ultimately also means that it will be harder if not impossible to leave any significant and lasting mark on Berlin’s musical heritage. Even for the city’s emerging experimental pop undercurrents, transience remains the city’s only persisting feature.

Preview: Berlin Music Week 2014

19 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Brace yourself, Berlin Music Week 2014 is upon us! Still not SXSW, but certainly the closest thing Germany has to a relevant music-industry gathering that attempts to be both global in reach and musically all-encompassing in scope. Mind you: This is a Berlin-based website so we choose to ignore Reeperbahn Festival which otherwise probably would like to have a say in this as well. Apologies, Hamburg. If you manage to sift through all the presumtuously enthusiastic press blurbs you will come to realise that the event has once again gained focus and coherence in relation to both the 'music' and the 'talk' components, which should be acknowledged and lauded. The official press release, to be honest, still remains bulky and somewhat embarrassing in its overstated reliance on Berlin as the place to be, not least as after all is said and done, there's no denying that the German capital is still not the guiding light for contemporary pop music, and will most likely never surpass or even approximate London or New York in that sense. At the end of the day, and despite the standing of techno in general or instutions such as Berghain in particular, the city's attitude remains firmly parochial. Of course, the organisers are having none of it. Nor should they, we assume: "Creativity, innovation, originality and authenticity: This is Berlin. The city’s ubiquitous mix of music and technology, festivals and club events is a big part of the driving force behind it all. Berlin Music Week offers a world stage for all these areas with its two core parts: the WORD! conference for business and SOUND! for live events."

So there you go. And why not? As long as people from all across the world keep thinking that it is here and now where the real stuff is happening, maybe we can turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy and then enjoy it while it lasts. Don't get me wrong: There's still plenty to see and do during those forthcoming September days. The conference prgram looks mostly well-considered, and especially the music section "First We Take Berlin" (FWTB) with its concept of compartmentalized curation and despite its questionable name for sure has a promising future, and should be fun indeed. If we say music section, we shall however spare Berlin Music Week's purported capstone event Berlin Festival, an occurence which in the past years presented itself in such an uninspired manner that it made the impression of being no more than a vapid leftover meal for all those souls who couldn't make it to Melt Festival in July. The change of location from the scenic yet manifestly inept Tempelhof Airport (talking about the sound here, duh) to Arena on the opposite, more hipster-friendly end of Kreuzberg will probably help to reconnect Berlin Festival with the rest of the week's happenings, so we might even have reason to be optimistic about this part as well. For now however, we will not mention it any further, mostly because their promo videos still make us cringe (Sorry, Conny). Instead, below you'll find our selection of the most interesting nights of FWTB, plus some words on WORD! for added credibility.

Oh and if you are in town for BMW 2014, please say hello.

One more thing, is that David Guetta in the video? Seriously?

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Let's get this straight – "First We Take Berlin" sure is a fun two days of music with quite a few interesting artists definitely worth your time and money, but for me it remains unclear what it is exactly that should or will be taken after the musicians are done taking Berlin. Germany? That would seem odd for a music business event that strives to be globally significant, right? Europe? Perhaps, but why have not one but two showcases related to music from Scandinavia then, with artists that are likely already better known up there? The world? That's probably the organisers' intention after all. However, considering last year's line-up, a lot of the performing acts looked already an awful lot familiar to, say, Pitchfork's international target audience. But maybe we're too harsh here, arguing too much from a semi-arrogant music blogger position who thinks they're in the know by default. So let's have an unbiased look at the program for a change; this is cherry-picking of course, so if you want to have a more all-encompassing overview, be sure to check out FWTB's website here.

CTM Festival Presents Berlin Current

The forward-thinking electronic music festival's newest project Berlin Current has been around for almost a year now, and after a successful and compelling first round, it is set to launch its second season with a showcase during FWTB at Urban Spree on Friday, September 5. We've written about the initiative a few times before, and this is probably a good opportunity to mention that this time around, No Fear Of Pop will be one of Berlin Current's official media partners (full disclosure now, full details soon), but here's another quick summary: the project attempts to tap into the undercurrents of Berlin's contemporary pop music scene, looking for the more outré, future-oriented sounds that try to look beyond the beaten path. Broadly speaking, it's the music NFOP covers most of the time as well, which is why we think this collaborative venture is oh so fitting. Accordingly, the artists presented on September 5 hardly need to be further introduced to our readers, as almost all of them have made repeated appearances on our pages before: Lief HallMoon Wheel, Ketev, and Phoebe Kiddo are gonna perform live, followed by DJ sets by Opium Hum and the city's most exciting and exceptional turntable darling Sarah Farina.

We had Berlin via Canada artist Lief Hall on our Berlin Community Radio show in April, where she performed three songs from her most recent (and so far unreleased) material live. Stream the whole show below.

Our/Berlin Music Week Curated by Nordic By Nature

Oh, Scandinavia. Where would we be without your music? Silly question, but that aside Berlin should be happy to have the women at Nordic By Nature who tirelessly scour the nordic countries' inexhaustible source for fresh, mildly adventurous, and always ridiculously talented upcoming musicians. Last year's first edition of their cooperation with the city's finest boutique vodka distillery Our/Berlin was a total success, so it was without doubt a clever decision by the organisers of Berlin Music Week to endorse the off-BMW event and turn it into an official part of FWTB. For 2014, the three-day showcase has again found a home right next to Arena at Oberhafenkantine, where the grass is green and the water is close by, the right combination for anyone looking for a lush afternoon out in the sun (because summer is coming back, we hope). The NBN folks have put together an ample and diverse program of better and lesser known Scandinavian artists, making sure that there should be something for everyone. Plus there's gonna be coffee, Korean specialties, more treats, and oh – yes, also vodka. Check out the schedule below.

Wednesday, September 3

3pm  Hey Elbow
4pm  Sherpa
5pm  The White Album
7pm  Jaakko Eino Kalevi
8pm  Alice Boman

Thursday, September 4

3pm  Lowly
4pm  Aurora Aksnes
5pm  Melkeveien
7pm  Dinner
8pm  DNKL

Friday, September 5

3pm  Henrik José
5pm  Adna
7pm  First hate
8pm  Sandra Kolstad
9pm  Boeoes Kaelstigen

The Rest

Berlin Current and Our/Berlin Music Week are the two showcase events during FWTB that we would warmly recommend in their entirety not only due to personal affiliation but mostly because of their compelling conceptualisation. However, of course there are more artists to see elsewhere, as there are more stages and curated nights that look intriguing, so here's a short, completely arbitrary selection. The Hotflush thing at Ipse featuring L.I.E.S.' Florian Kupfer will certainly not disappoint, as well as the performances by Emika, M.A.N.D.Y., Star Slinger, Tweens, and Ballet School. The fact that Kindness is coming to town is of course particularly exciting and should not be missed under any circumstances. Also, we're sure that the line-up features some truly hidden gems that we're simply not aware of, so just try to get to see as much music as possible and everything should be fine for future boasting. So far we found ourselves unable to find a comprehensive schedule for the whole festival, so make sure to keep checking their website ahead of September 4.


As promised, to finish off a few words on Berlin Music Week's more uptight conference program. It's more for you professionally inclined of course and probably not really interesting for most, but allow us to mention that the panel "When Teenage Music Fans Are Your Audience" sounds so menacing that there's absolutely no way that we're gonna miss out on that one, although we dearly hope that it will never happen to us personally. Jokes aside, there's a lot going on that's concerned with the future of the music industry (streaming! copyright! Youtube!) which as usual sounds a bit alarmist and also just like the program of any music-related conference of the past five years, but then again, that's certainly simply the sign of the times and thus ultimately inevitable if you want to be taken seriously. We'll inform you immediately in case someone manages to solve the riddle of how to survive in the music industry today during the conference. Promise. And one last thing, our friend and chief musicologist visionary Adam Harper will be present to talk about "Indie Goes Hi-Tech: The End of Analogue Warmth and Cosy Nostalgia" on Friday, September 5 at 3.15pm, a topic that should sound familiar to anyone following his (highly recommended!) columns on Fader and elsewhere. If there's only one thing you can attend during the conference, consider this one.