17 Dec 2014 — Lukas Dubro
The fascinating aspect of Alexander Winkelmann is that he seems to be in neverending metamorphosis. You can never be certain about what to expect of him-- only that it's gonna be different every time. Take for instance his live shows: One time he flips over the stage playing all kinds of instruments and gadgets over loud and dancy beats, next time he sits in the dark with a friend playing ambient guitar music over field recordings from the Chilean jungle.
Recordings from the Berlin-based artist are pretty much the same. His first, Das neue Album, was an acoustic guitar album. Winkelmann's voice and a guitar were recorded with nothing more then his laptop's internal mic. On his next, Das neuere Album, Winkelmann showed his experimental side, adding all kinds of instruments and deconstructing classical song structures. He continued down this lane, improving his production and adding more and more energy to it. His untitled EP has been the most energetic up to date and the ending point of what developed since. The link between all of his output is the attitude: punk gestures meeting an impressive artistic intellectuality. Winkelmann likes to play with quotes, and there always seems to be a false bottom, a deeper sense to them.
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For his latest album, Winkelmann has again changed the sound. Not only did he get himself a new name-- Alexander Winkelmann is from now on known as Wellness-- the production is much more elaborate, the arrangements more dense, and the whole vibe more serious (even though the playfulness is still there). One of the main reasons for this development is due to producer Dawn Mok aka Yule FM aka Lood Mahamoti's involvement. The signature of Dawn Mok's work is completely unique sound exploration. Each of his albums have a original sound that marry different genres with self-modulated digital synths. It's exactly this approach that nourishes the sound of Wellness. It seems like the perfect match: Two artists with a unconventional approach to music create an album with countless layers. Together they introduce hardcore beats, drones and heavy rock guitars to the universe of Alexander Winkelmann, while keeping the key elements like machine produced voice samples and (un peu caché) Winkelmann's unique way of singing.
All the same, Winkelmann is not the only Berlin artist skinning himself permanently. Two other prominent musicians are Winkelmann's producer himself, Dawn Mok, and performance artist Meghan Edwards aka Miss M.E. Since coming across Dawn Mok, he has had three different band projects, each with a completely different style. While Yule FM combined Adrian Orange-driven guitar music with autotune and hip hop beats, Lood Mahamoti was a hyperactive rap album with a lot of soul. Currently, with Dawn Mok, he mixes experimental pop music with deep industrial sounds. Dawn Mok also features Kathy Kwon, who contributes not only her beautiful voice to the dark soundscapes. Each of these projects sound more than convincing. Within two years, he has created more good music than many other artist do within their entire career. The same goes for Miss Edwards: It began with finding some pretty precious lo-fi bedroom tunes with a lot of 80's in it, but by the first show I attended, she had transformed into Julee Cruise, playing dreamy dark guitar music. Most recently, she teamed up with Berlin DJ Moonwheel to play a gothy Fever Ray-inspired set with a ghostly dance performance. What is true for Winkelmann and Dawn Mok is true for her; each version of Miss M.E is breathtaking.
One might ask, What's going on with these people? Why be inconsistant with your talent? Why not try at least to promote your most successful project a bit? Maybe some call it impatience, but I think it more accurately aligns with a hunger to explore that drives these artists to change over and over again. What they do reflects the transient possibilities and of the internet and a real place like Berlin colliding. They are searching and do not accept compromises or commit themselves to business strategies. Even though you have to be quick to catch up with them and take time to trace back their work, it is more than worth it to keep on eye on all three of these artists.
Listen to Wellness' debut self-titled album here.