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Music Montag: Redshape

by James Glazebrook

Redshape

Redshape by Passetti, under Creative Commons licence Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Here’s what I wrote on Bang Bang Berlin when I first encountered this masked man behind the decks in Berghain:

We’re fans of theatrics, and masks are a surefire way to get yourself seen and your music heard. Leaving our closeted love of Slipknot to one side, we’d like to shine a spotlight on Redshape. The Berlin-based techno head’s blood-coloured Michael Myers mask paradoxically marks him out against the city’s faceless producers and DJs, while maintaining an unsettling air of mystery.

Redshape (AKA Sebastian Kramer) recently revealed a little of the man behind his mask, with an XLR8R podcast that largely eschews his trademark tough techno in favour of some less-obvious influences. Alongside Carl Craig classic “Sandstorms” and tracks from the artist himself and fellow Berliner Plastikman, are Brian Eno and DJ Shadow - whose cinematic works bookend the mix – and leftfield inclusions like a cheesy lounge take on Jean Michel Jarre from Señor Coconut and the RZA‘s “Samurai Showdown”, from the Ghost Dog soundtrack. In fact, one of the few things Kramer gives away is that he’s a film nut: both Eno tracks come from Music for Films and the Shadow numbers include samples from Heat and Network. We’re glad he could tear himself away from his Beamer long enough to lay down such an unexpected and delightful mix.

Check out XLR8R Podcast 273: Redshape after the jump.

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Music Montag: Brunchhain!

by James Glazebrook

Brunchhain
noun [brənʧ heɪn]
1. a big, boozy brunch followed by a trip to Berghain
2. the most fun you can have on a summery Sunday in Berlin

Yesterday was Big Fun for a couple of reasons. It was our first Brunchhain, and our friends Mike and Casey’s first ever trip to Berghain – and it certainly didn’t disappoint. To them, it looked just like the descriptions in our Inside Berghain post (club scene from Blade, techno Crystal Maze…) and sounded suitably apocalyptic:

Outside, it was a different wibe. We spent most of our first Brunchhain in the club’s summer garden, soaking up some rays, some sights (oh, the people watching!) and some warm house grooves, courtesy of Red D. The afternoon’s highlights were disco anthem “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, and the kind of Chicago classics that pepper D’s awesome Ron Hardy tribute mix:

I was a little disappointed that we missed Dinky, whose set was moved from Sunday to Saturday night at the last minute. Here’s the kind of mix I was hoping for from her, back-to-back soul and disco sweetness:

So let me add to the obvious things people say about Berghain: you have to go, and you have to go on a summery Sunday after a big, boozy brunch. In conclusion: BRUNCHHAIN!!!

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Construction Noise – The Real Sound of Gentrifying Berlin?

by James Glazebrook

We’re always asking, what does Berlin sound like? Well, Slow Travel Berlin‘s recent interview with the intriguing Schneider TM provides one answer: Construction Sounds. The title of the electronic artist’s new album describes the field recordings that provide its backbone, the noise from the construction sites surrounding his home studio:

For around 8 or 9 years I’ve lived and worked in my former apartment, which was located in one of the most vibrant renovation areas in East Berlin. The noise of the construction sites literally took over my music and I just surrendered at some point. I started to record and play around with the sounds.

Sometimes abstract and haunting…

…and sometimes, noisy and oppressive…

Construction Sounds reminds me of Ostgun Ton’s Fünf compilation, a diverse set of tracks formed from Emika’s field recordings from inside Berghain. Emika’s one contribution as producer, “Cooling Room” turns the sounds and space of the cavernous club into a clanking, chiming musical sketch:

…all of which makes me wonder what a musician could do with our Berlin Sounds, the field recordings from around the city that you are contributing to our SoundCloud group. We have some ideas of our own, but why not listen to the clips below and let your imagination run wild – could you make music out of this?

Read the complete interview with Schneider TM over on Slow Travel Berlin.

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Berlin Sound: A SoundCloud Group

by James Glazebrook

What does Berlin sound like? Many would nominate the 4/4 thud of the Berghain speaker stacks, the blare of U-Bahn buskers, or squat-party punk. But what about non-music audio?

We’ve set up a SoundCloud group called Berlin Sound, for people to share their sounds from around the city. So far we’ve heard: the hustle and bustle of the Maybachufer market, the eerie calm of Neukölln and Kreuzberg at night, and the seemingly endless announcement from the female “voice” of the U-Bahn when it pulls into Alexanderplatz. Oh yes, and the 4/4 thud of the Berghain speaker stacks!

You can hear the sounds we’ve collected so far using the widget below, or over on the Berlin Sound group page. If you already have some (non-music) audio to share, simply join the group, upload your sound to SoundCloud and click the “Share to group” button on the track player. And why not download SoundCloud’s mobile app, and go out and record something we’ve never heard before?

We’d love to hear your Berlin Sounds!

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Sorry Sunday Times, Berlin’s clubs aren’t “satanic”

by James Glazebrook

A week before our last visit to Berghain, Zoë’s parents read something that gave them cause for concern. According to a hysterical article in The Sunday Times, the UK’s most popular weekly newspaper, inside the (in)famous Berlin club the “smell of sex is overpowering”. I’ve never smelt anything like that inside the club, but I did get a whiff of something when I opened the copy of the Times my in-laws mailed to us. Bullshit.

Berlin's "return to decadence" by The Sunday Times

I can’t link to the article, because the News International dinosaurs have hidden it behind a paywall – which is either unfortunate or lucky for you, depending on how much you like to be angered by sensationalism and lies. (As you’re about to find out, I love it.) You can however, see the “trailer” for the article (click through on the image above), and read a pretty decisive dismantling of it over on skruff.com. Quoted there, former Bar 25 resident DJ Beaner is the voice of reason:

it’s just the basic London journalism. You know, it’s using vague second hand non-facts to prove a story that you set out to write already… That kind of stuff [writer Christopher Goodwin] described does exist in a few places in Berlin though I honestly think Berlin was wilder and more hedonistic a few years back.

The point is not that sex and drugs aren’t common features of certain Berlin nightspots, just that they aren’t everywhere, in every club – as Goodwin suggests. His assertion that “the Berlin scene is driven by such blatant sexual licentiousness and ubiquitous drug-taking that it would make the denizens of the decadent Weimar clubs of 1920s Berlin blush in their velvet coffins”, is based 75% on a visit to the Kit Kat Klub, and 20% on a trip to Berghain. If you go to a fetish club, you are going to see sex, and if you go to a gay club, you are going to see gay stuff.

To “report” such goings-on so pornographically (“a model-beautiful blonde woman in her early twenties is being taken from behind by an athletic young guy as she orally gratifies another man while stimulating a third with her hand”) and to imply that they take place in every Berlin club is far more irresponsible than any of the participants’ actions. Labelling an article “not suitable for children” is the worst kind of tabloid journalism, as is the use of homophobic and demonising language (“minces”, “as satanic as the club he owns”) and the outrageous, downright racist suggestion that “many fear [Berlin] will degenerate into a crisis as serious as that which gave rise to Nazism.”

Count yourself lucky you can’t read this shit. But be prepared for questions from concerned relatives back home who have been conned into believing that everyone in Berlin is fucking and drugging themselves silly, out in the open. Just be straight with them: drug-taking is more open here, but probably no more prevalent than clubs in London or anywhere else; the sex is consensual and takes place in designated fetish clubs (which also exist everywhere); and you’ve seen far fewer casualties of substance abuse or violence here than anywhere else you’ve ever lived. Stick that in your bigoted, fear-mongering pipe and smoke it, Sunday Times.

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A Wild Weekend in Berlin

by James Glazebrook

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Our New Year’s Resolutions

by James and Zoe

We like challenges. That’s one of the reasons we moved to Berlin in the first place. But we’re also *very* lazy, and having a nice apartment that doubles as our office – and has a projector in it – has seen us develop some bad habits. That’s why we’re posting our New Year’s resolutions here for all to see. Accountability, people. Wish us luck!

1. Speak German
I’m aware that I talk a lot about *trying* to learn German, but haven’t done much in this direction since my last lesson, over six months ago. Instead of aiming for something so vague and open-ended, I’m going to get out there, use what German I do have, and hoffentlich pick up some more. 

2. Introduce myself
I like meeting new people, but I’ve always been shit at greeting them. I may be unsure about whether I should be shaking your hand, kissing your cheek (twice?) or, I don’t know, dry-humping your leg, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t part ways at least knowing each other’s names.

3. Exercise every day
There are a lot of advantages to working from home, but *not* becoming a fat bastard isn’t one of them. I’m never going to “buff up” but a daily run or walk (at least downstairs!) will help my health - physical and mental – no end.

4. See more of my family
Prepare to be shocked: I’ve only seen my two year-old niece twice, and I’ve NEVER met her one year-old sister. The selfish bitches haven’t visited us in Berlin once! Maybe I should be visiting my family more often…

5. Sort out my style
Before you rush to defend my wardrobe (anyone?), there’s probably an age (and decade) past which men shouldn’t wear skinny jeans. And if I don’t commit to resolution #3, pretty soon I’ll look like an onion stuck on top of two toothpicks. Anyone with ideas about how to maintain a heavy metal edge in your 30s and not look ridiculous, get in touch ASAP.

1. Take more photos
With Berlin as my subject this really shouldn’t be that hard. But every time I set the alarm to get up for one of those apparently amazing sunrises, I snooze right through it. Next year I shall be a proper legit photographer and get up crazy early to take pictures of landscapes and crap and hate every minute of it. Huzzah!

2. Get out of the apartment more
Freelancers out there will sympathise with this one. Working from home has its perks (sweatpants as second skin, rolling out of bed and into the “office” and showering very VERY irregularly), but it also has downsides. A lack of human contact (James doesn’t count) means I’m losing the few social skills I used to have. In 2012 I’m going to get up, get ready and see REAL LIFE PEOPLE. And maybe even chat to them if I’m feeling brave.

3. Get out of Berlin more
Now you all know how much we love Berlin (no duh). With so many amazing things to see and do all over the city it’s easy to remain in our lovely little bubble and never leave the place. But to be within a two-hour plane journey of places like Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Stockholm and to not see them, is just totes ridick.

4. Get a dog
Berlin you evil wench you, you’ve made me want to get a dog! Maybe it’s the change in lifestyle and the need for an aid to resolution #2, or the fact that dogs seem to be permitted everywhere in Berlin and I’m constantly being exposed to cute, furry little things. Whatever it is, I got the bug. Just for the hell of it I asked our landlord whether we could have a dog, and she actually said yes (only in Berlin!) so watch this space dog lovers.

5. Go clubbing at Berghain
Although I’ve been to Berghain many times for gigs, I’ve never actually been clubbing there. I know, GASP. This may be a Berlin “must-do” for any techno lover but every time a trip was planned I always seemed to be in London for work. After being here over a year and never pumping fists within its sweaty walls, or seeing the sun rise through bleary eyes, I feel like a fraud. Well no more I say!

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A Year in Berlin – Five Things We’ve Learned

by Zoë Noble

Not much German, unfortunately.
We started with good intentions. We did an intensive course for two months when we arrived, but three hours after a full day’s work, four times a week, was clearly too much German for anyone. By the end I was ready to shoot myself AND all Germans, just for the Dative case alone! Not the attitude I wanted to have with my new countrymen so a break was probably a good thing. Only now are we getting back on der Waggon – join us on Twitter where we are posting a word a day under the hashtag #dailydeutsch.

A German accountant is your best friend.
With our limited understanding of German, receiving letters with official looking stamps on them can be quite scary. Opening them to see pages and pages of text, some of it bolded AND underlined, with intimidating words like “Lastschrifteinzugsverfahren” (“Direct Debit”, for God’s sake!) can be quite unsettling. After James took over three hours to Google Translate one letter which simply informed us of our tax reference number, we knew, for our own sanity, that we needed to get an accountant.

Germans stare.
This one took a bit of getting used to. For the first few months we just couldn’t understand what the hell was wrong with people or, more importantly, with us! We initially put it down to the locals not being used to seeing exotic London folk like us (we’re the only ones here, right?), but we now know this is just their way and not to take it too personally. Also, I’ll win any staring contest so BRING IT ON BEATCHES!!

To carry cash at all times.
Debit and credit cards aren’t accepted in 99% of Berlin’s restaurants, cafés and bars. We English are so used to handing over that little bit of plastic for everything that this was hard to get your heads around: “You don’t accept THIS card you mean, right??” Er no… So off James would go in search of a cashpoint, leaving me alone for twenty minutes, looking like a jilted lover. Lesson learned – we now carry a wad of cash that would make Tony Soprano feel self-conscious.

Everything is shut on Sundays.
Seriously, everything – supermarkets, clothes shops, IKEA…the lot! This can be frustrating when you haven’t got any food in the cupboards or desperately need to buy that new oven mitt, but when you get used to it, it can actually work to your advantage. Sundays are now perfect for that lovely stroll along the canal, cleaning up the house or doing all those odd jobs you keep putting off. Or even better, going for brunch and then off to pump some fists in the air at Berlin’s best club Berghain!

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No publicity please!

by James Glazebrook

We’ve just got back from being denied entry to C-Club, because they wouldn’t let us in with Zoë’s camera. At first, the bouncers didn’t seem sure about the venue’s policy, but one of them soon arrived at a rule he was happy to enforce: no large cameras, only small point-and-shoots. Of course, we were welcome to leave our grand’s-worth of gear here, he said, gesturing towards a plastic box at his feet right next to the door. He’d give us a number and everything – “it will be safe”.

What really bites is that we would have been allowed entry if we were on the press list. The only reason we weren’t was that I deliberately chose to buy tickets, to put money in the pockets of one of my favourite bands, Innerpartysystem (a fledgling group who, in this tough climate, have already been dropped by one major label). I would have posted Zoë’s photos here, and written a no-doubt glowing review (they’re amazing live) for BANG BANG BERLIN.

But it turns out the venue doesn’t want the publicity. I don’t know about headliners 3OH!3, but IPS are smart enough to know about the power of both fans (which has kept them alive) and good content. This is a band whose punning Never Be Content EP was launched with a video, below, all about the potential of media, marketing and advertising – albeit for harm. They know that the more words and images “out there” about them, the better.

So this must be the venue’s policy. But it doesn’t appear on their website, their tickets or even on notices at their doors. And they’re using is as a reason to turn people away, while tickets are left unsold at their box office. I understand why Berghain don’t allow cameras, because the lack of records of the superclub’s inside space actually adds to its legendary status (and leads to bonkers descriptions like this). But, Columbiahalle’s little sister venue is certainly not Berghain, nor are the clubs that are rumoured to be adopting similar policies. In fact, we don’t know what these places are like, because we aren’t going to them – and without any publicity, no-one else will.

So fuck you very much C-Club. Here’s hoping the city’s red tape chokes you off real soon.

Backstage at Berghain

Lucky for Berghain, it doesn’t need publicity – because photos like this (backstage) won’t help!

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A certain magic in the air: Emika raves about Berlin

by James Glazebrook

Emika

Electronic artist Emika cut her teeth on Bristol bass music, before moving to Berlin back in 2008. A Berghain fanatic-turned-collaborator, she recorded sounds around the club from which the resident DJs created tracks for in-house label Ostgut Ton’s Fünf compilation. She has lent her enigmatic vocals to local scenesters MyMy, Paul Frick and Tommy Four Seven, and released her own tracks on Ninja Tune – the dynamic and ethereal “Drop the Other” and “Double Edge”, and the meditative “Count Backwards”. This summer, she releases another EP before her hotly anticipated debut album, and plays a handful of select gigs. I caught up with her to find out how she fell in love with Berlin in the first place.

What has it meant to you, moving to Berlin?

Oh my god – everything.

It wasn’t a decision made for my career or my music to move here. I didn’t know about Berghain until maybe three months after moving here. I’d never really listened to techno – I was really into drum n’ bass, and dubstep and hip hop. I didn’t really know anything about Berlin, and that the music culture was so interesting.

So how come you ended up here?

This is kind of silly: I got a free flight when I upgraded my bank account!

And the first night I was here, I went to Watergate. As I was leaving, this guy started talking to me – and he is now one of my best friends. I totally fell in love with him – not in a romantic way – and he took me to flea markets, took me all around the city, let me stay with him, introduced me to his friends here.

So yeah, I fell in love with him, and his friends, and moved here to work as an au pair and a few months later I discovered, “WOW, there’s this thing called techno! I quite like techno!” From there I discovered Hard Wax, the record store, and very slowly educated myself – OK, there’s this scene in Detroit and this scene in Chicago… I didn’t know about any of this stuff before I moved here.

What’s so special about Berlin?

The feeling when I’m here, it’s much like the feeling when I first came to Berlin. When I get off the train at Warschauer Strasse, I still get the feeling of “Oh, I love it here!” I can’t explain it – I mean, when you look around you the place looks like a dump, there’s dog shit everywhere, and there’s graffiti everywhere and everyone’s broke and everyone looks drunk half the time… I don’t know what it is, there’s just a certain magic in the air here.


How did you end up collaborating with Berghain?

Well [resident and Ostgut Ton manager] Nick Höppner was DJing and I was trying to make a cigarette. I was really drunk and was trying to roll up on the decks, which swing – they’re not attached to the ground. I tried to get my jacket to get something, and I knocked the needle off the record and the music stopped. And I was like, “Oh my God.” It was the one and only time when I thought, “Yeah, I know the DJ and yeah, I’m going to go behind the decks and make a fag!” and I just killed the party. I was like, “Nooooooo!”

Anyway, in that moment, when the music stopped, I leaned against the wall and there was this strange echo. You could hear the people and it was like the whole building stopped resonating when the music stopped, and it was like “vwooom”. And I totally forgot that the music had stopped and I looked around at all the stuff that makes sound – the lights and the fog machine and the bar and the people and the floor and the ceiling, and the shutters in Panorama Bar on the outside. There’s so much stuff that makes sound phenomena on its own.

And that’s when it was just like “ping!” I was stood there dancing next to Nick Höppner, and I was thinking, “Oh my God, I can record a sound library and it can be amazing…” And then it just evolved from there. But there was this moment, when I realised, “Oh my god, Berghain got voted number one club in the world, and there’s this thing about, ‘it’s so hard to get into’…” And then I worried about how I would be perceived in the media, people thinking, “Oh here’s this girl, and she’s now over here doing something with Berghain.” And it wasn’t like that. It’s really about the sounds in that place – it’s not about me at all. It could have been anyone in there with a mic, recording that stuff, it just happened to be me.


And you recorded some vocals at Die Teufelsberg, right?

Oh, that was the scariest thing in my life.

First, I went there with my friend. There’s a listening station right at the top, which you can access – it’s pretty dangerous, lots of gaps in the stairs and stuff like that. And there’s this huge, huge door, which was shut, and I didn’t want to go in there. But my friend was like, “Come on lets do it!” and got this crowbar! By the time we got in it was totally dark outside, but we didn’t realise, and the door slammed behind us and we couldn’t get out. It was so terrifying!

Anyway, this listening tower is a perfect sphere shape – you can say “ah” and it’ll carry on for about 20 seconds, just all around you. Suddenly it’s like there’s a choir of people singing with you. And it’s so trippy! So we go back there a week later, and I take my laptop and microphones and stuff, and I recorded an hour’s worth of singing. I got home and listened to the recordings and it was just noise – like this strange “kkkst” noise, with like Russian radio.

I went back again, and had a different microphone set up that time, and that time recorded my voice fine. I have no idea, I don’t know how that stuff works… At the end of my video for Double Edge, I cut in some of the sound. So weird, so weird…

So that’s the magic in the air?

Yeah right!


You’ve been here for three years - do you feel like a Berliner now?

I feel like a Berlin fan. It could be a whole lifetime’s journey to really understand the history of Berlin, and the nature of the society and the people here, the energy here. I don’t think it’s every going to be something where I think, “Yep, that’s it – I’m a Berliner now!” But I definitely feel like I’ve made a home for myself here.

This article originally appeared on Bang Bang Berlin.

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