Outside, a hard and warm summer shower had just ended. Inside, the medium-sized club Gretchen in Berlin was perhaps at half capacity with an audience of two hundred, and here, the rain started again. It was unusual dark in the club, even before the show started with the ten minute loop of a rain sample, and after Dean Blunt entered the stage amidst the loud, wet soundscape, he gave what can only be described as a top notch performance of anxiety and overcompensating confidence. Strolling around on the stage, doing nothing but stare calmly, yet nervously for the next few minutes, he set the tone for what was to come.
The show was not for the faint of heart, or for the narrow minded. It was half of an art show and half of an sensory rollercoaster, with a hint of a pop concert thrown in the mix. There was a muscular guy, for example, standing in the back of the stage, sometimes leaning against the wall, sometimes standing around freely, but never doing anything of purpose for the concert. At times, Blunt took his place and let the music play – which was from tape for the whole show, except for a saxophonist and Joanne Robertson with a guitar. Sometimes he sang through the heavy fog from the machine, or rather spoke – or whatever: it was his typical sprechgesang.
If one had to interpret, had to name a topic or two for the show – and the art aspect invited such an approach – it would be “wastefulness” and the above mentioned overcompensation. As on his albums and mixtapes, the songs often ended abruptly or noise samples interrupted the sweet melodies, and after another rain interlude in the complete dark and foggy club, a heavy strobe light set in, changing pace to the pitch of the noise and lasting well over ten minutes into the next two (and last) songs. It was complete sensory overload where you couldn’t decide whether to cover your ears and eyes or let it wash over you, swallow you whole. The show ended abruptly after a little more than an hour, but it felt like a whole night out. Or a life out.
As most of you probably know, this blog is a child of my Turntable.fm room with the same name. After the initial hype in 2011, user numbers on ttfm (as it is know to friends) have stagnated, but they are hosting more and more live events now, which is a great way to get the latest unreleased tracks by artists, chat with them and meet other fans. Just like on any other “real” concert, really. And it pays off for ttfm, as the numbers seem to go up again. A lot of those events are organized by users, too – and one of them is youtube.com/DJ, who has a channel under this address, as well as a ttfm account of course. He is hosting one of the biggest – and definitely the longest – festival on ttfm next week, so I thought I let you guys know about it.
The Memory Waves Festival will feature Ulrich Schnauss, Tycho, Com Truise and many more Synthwave and Chill artists over the course of 12 hours on Monday, all Monday, April 8th. It will take place in the friendly Chill or be Chilled room, which featured lots of original artists in the past already. But this is the biggest thing for them so far. If you have never heard of ttfm before, this is a great chance to try it out: They have guest accounts now, so you don’t even have to register with them if you only want to listen to the music. But it is much more fun if you can chat too, let me tell you. See you there!
Gretchen, again. Believe me, I go to other venues in Berlin too, like Berghain (Brand Brauer Frick – good) and Kosmonaut (Danielle Pappini – ok I guess) last week, but the acts that get booked at Gretchen always have the biggest potential and sometimes even realize it, like Nosaj Thing last night. He was lead in by Letherette, a UK duo that didn’t play your typical UK bass sounds, but mostly had a synth disco thing going. They varied their set though, paying with originality and richness for danceability. It worked, but remained functional music.
Jason Chung aka Nosaj Thing then put up a very different type of set, creating more of an atmosphere than a beat pattern. Indeed, he seemed to have several different beats going at once most of the time, which was challenging to both body and mind. To the body, because it had to adjust and shift a lot, but then soon was put in a kind of trance. And to the mind, because it just couldn’t come to rest. The combinaton of those two effects felt like being tired and nonetheless unable to sleep due to too many thoughts racing through your head. There was a bit of unease Nosaj Thing’s set, as you can see, but it was a challenge and an experience. It was a good thing that his set ended after one short hour though, because as much as I enjoyed it – when the DJ after him dropped some trap hooks and builds, it was a nice change and release.
At the end of a gross rainy day in DC, U Street Music Hall opened its doors to a five-DJ lineup sponsored by the Red Bull Music Academy. Two tours converged for one special night, featuring headliner Daedelus and a couple of promising youngsters that include a number of the Wedidit electronic music collective: LA’s Shlohmo and D33J and Toronto’s Ryan Hemsworth. A late show for a Wednesday lineup as stacked as this, D33J kicked things off as people slowly filtered in. When I arrived 15 minutes into his set, my head was bobbing involuntarily before I’d even taken off my jacket. Though his set was a bit uneven, D33J dropped some absolute gems, including a finale that had Ryan Hemsworth nodding along as he set up for leg #2. Sadly, I didn’t recognize his surprisingly amazing rework of Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’, but the rest of the lineup would feature enough novelty remixes to satisfy.
Hemsworth is a nerdy white kid from Canada who can’t dance, but his taste and collection of classic R&B remixes is the epitome of cool. I’m not terribly good at trainspotting, but even I could recognize a ton of stems Hemsworth worked with. He began the set boldly by simply playing Mya’s 2003 anthem “My Love Is Like… Wo” and within five minutes he’d already dropped Ghost Town DJs’ incredible 1996 dance track “My Boo”. My attention was fully his.
Over the next hour, Hemsworth explored a myriad selection of genres – trap, dub, tech-house, R&B, 8Bit – and seamlessly wove a half dozen other mind-blowing samples or re-works. Usher’s ‘Confessions Pt. 2’ was given a deep hyphy bass rumble before melting away to Hemsworth’s own simple remix of Frank Ocean’s ‘Thinkin Bout You’ – all prelude to an instrumental interlude featuring the music from The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Somehow, he even managed to drop an edit of R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in a Closet’ without anyone batting an eye. Hemsworth’s skill at selecting edits and remixing tracks is highly impressive, and it will be worth keeping an eye out for future official releases. By the time he finished with his suburb remix of Rhye’s new single ‘Open’, the crowd was dancing unabashedly and primed for Shlohmo.
Unfortunately, technical difficulties would delay Shlohmo’s set by about ten minutes before it opened with a chest-vibrating bass rumble. This wasn’t the Shlohmo from your headphone listens – delicately balancing between soft and loud to accentuate emotion – no, this was Shlohmo ready for a rave. The first half of Shlohmo’s set didn’t range much – huge buzzing bass and a few clicks and clacks syncopated over unintelligibly distorted vocal samples. The pivot was mid-set as the melody of ‘Rained The Whole Time’ emerged and eventually led into Shlohmo’s excellent remix of LOL Boys – ‘Changes’. These two tracks keyed an energetic second half of his set, which featured more interesting percussion, melody, and occasional deviations in volume and intensity that heightened the mood. The crowd, which had swelled by the end of Shlohmo’s set, responded very positively, rewarding the DJ with that rarest of DC treats – moving feet dancing in the audience. He closed with some highly energetic bass music – it was an unfamiliar Shlohmo for those that listen on headphones and one that I didn’t altogether want, but his skill as a DJ and ability to move a dance floor are unquestionable.