The (first) 120 days of 2017
“Time keeps slipping, keeps slipping
Time, time keeps slipping
Time, time keeps slipping
Time, time keeps slipping”
(Scritti Politti: “Tinseltown to the Boogiedown”)
“But don’t look back in anger
Don’t look back in anger
I heard you say
At least not today”
(Oasis: “Don’t Look Back in Anger”)
So, how to begin? Is the glass a half empty or half full? I guess by the end of this column we feel right where we belong on this very first day of the May.
But given how 2016 ended, when the election of Donald John Trump topped off a year of sad departures by some of our greatest musicians (Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, Colonel Abrams and George Michael, to name just a few), let’s focus on the positives.
True, the title of this piece nods to the Nazi-masterpiece (sic) “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” by Pier Paolo Pasolini, but then those negative vibrations often produce our best art.
So, let’s pay tribute to all those cultural developments, great and small, that the Kaput team and me weren’t able to draw your attention to, because we were too busy hustling through the last 119 days.
Oxbow “Thin Black Duke”
In the mid 1990s I ran a fanzine called Harakiri with friends in Stuttgart. It must have been in 1994 that my path crossed with members of San Francisco based noise band Oxbow for the first time. This led to them playing one Harakiri release show and they stayed with us whenever they were touring in Europe. Legendary is the story how singer and ‘front-maniac’ Eugene Robinson, now a well established American journalist covering boxing, porn and politics, consumed the contents of our entire whole fridge (including eight eggs) before the others woke up, just to compensate for his massive morning workout programme of running and jerking off.
The band has long been in hibernation, but who cares as their comeback is nothing less than an assault on all the senses. Their sound has been dried and deepened by the brutality of the ageing process – imagine the victim’s sudden admission after a month long torture process. You have to picture Oxbow behaving to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds like Sun O))) to the Jesus Lizard – this “Ecce Homo” of “Thin Blake Duke” is indeed a “A Gentlemen´s Gentlemen” to say it with some of the albums song titles. But let’s have a look at the first single:
Ssaliva and Sega Bodega at Gold + Beton, Cologne
One of those totally unspectacular shows which are in truth very spectacular. While Ssaliva played it cool and solid and in so doing were very, very good… Sega Bodega produced a mind altering staccato – our author Roland Willhelm was nothing less than entranced.
“Autopoiesis” by Tobias.
Tobias Freund is has long been recognised as a producer with high end skills, a reputation earned as much in underground electronic music as in chart pop productions. That said, his new album “Eyes In The Center”, released on Ostgut Ton, is harder to categorise, travelling between ambient, experimental electronic music and techno. I absolutely fell in love with the track “Autopiesis”, opening, which as its name suggests, presents a self-generating world of sound, bringing together biology sociological and systems theory aspects – though it never sounds as professorial as I do here…
Hendrik Otremba “Über uns der Schaum”
A lot of musicians feel the pressure to ‘write the novel’ – yet few successfully make the transition, as even for lyricists books are a totally different discipline. Hendrik Otremba, who is the frontman of the German outfit Messer, demonstrates how to avoid the pitfalls however, by simply avoiding pop music as a subject. “Über uns der Schaum” (Verbrecher Verlag) is an exciting science fiction meets film noir story about a detective falling in love with the ghosts of the past. So far only in German, but I am pretty sure there will be an English version coming soon.
Detlef Diederichsen und Florian Sievers: “Pop 16 – 100 Jahre Produzierte Musik”
Another German book, published by Matthes & Seitz Berlin in cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt, where the two minds behind the publication, Detlef Diederichsen and Florian Sievers are working as curators.
The book brings together eleven well-written essays about the history of music production, ranging from the early days of music reproduction to the ongoing ways it creates cultural memories.
Tops “Sugar at the Gate” (Mansions and Millions)
If… If only the internet would play nicely, I would have posted here “Cloudy Skies”, the super beautiful opening song of the new album by the Montreal based band, Tops. It’s the perfect start to a wonderful indie pop record, coming in with a plucked guitar line, synth-washed reveries and last but not least that mysterious sounding voice. Instead I’ll give you their new single and video, also ‘not too shabby’ as my favorite Montreal person used to say:
“mono no aware”
Well, “mono no aware” is what we at Kaput call an absolute smasher of a compilation. Coming from the friendly avant-gardists over at PAN records this of course means lots of distorted harmonies as well as endless drifting through space and time. My faves are “Open Invitation” by ADR, a drunk-in-infinity beauty, the pleasingly meandering “Zhao Hua” by HVAD & Pan Daijing, “Fr3sh” by Kareem Lotfy, which captures both the unsettling nature of the Twin Peaks theme and the dark roundabouts of “Huit” by SKY H1.
“Dancing in the Smoke” by Actress
It would do a disservice to the magic power of “AZD” (Ninja Tune) as an album to single out just one track, but “Dancing in the Smoke” is one of those rare tunes which make you put the loop function on and get lost for a whole afternoon in its 6.22-minutes. How does he twist that brutal sound atmosphere into such bright shining escapism? The door to the future is suddenly supposed to be found at the end of a dark alley – and only there. Confusingly the track sounds as much like a dusty rave anthem from the early 90s as an stab at a new science fiction genre.
Music Cities Convention
Finally, even Berlin rents are rising, so it seems that we have lost the battle against gentrification on every ground. But that does not mean that the vital work of creating good structures for music and other forms of art in our cities is over. The work now takes place on the tiring fields of every day politics. That said the “Music Cities Convention”, organised by Sound Diplomacy, which happened in April in Berlins Rotes Rathaus was an inspiring event to attend by bringing together people deeply involved in music projects (from the Night Major of Amsterdam Mirik Milan to Martyn Ware of Heaven 17 & Human League), science (most impressive Dr. Shrikant Sharma who works on predictive models of human behaviour to deliver data driven and evidence based design), politicians (like Berlin’s permanent secretary for housing, Sebastian Scheel who really has to learn some English!) and political consultants like Charles Landry, author of “The Creative City”. Lots to take home and reflect on.
DJ Stingray at Stadtgarten, Cologne
Another magic night with the mighty DJ Stingray – in which the follow up set of DJ Brom was nothing short in quality, even by giving trance a bad name and dropping an Armin van Buuren track for close to ten minutes. I mean seriously? I loved it.
A recent dinner conversation got a bit out of control when I started discussing Arca, essentially that moment where everyone agrees they love this artist and yet you don’t. The minutes pass, and you start to doubt your own opinions. I have the tendency to start questioning myself – although the others at the table didn’t get that and asked for more honesty.
But as I say, our topic of concern was Arca.
So, okay, I absolutely do not understand what all the fuzz and buzz about Arca is. Sure, watching him and his gang celebrate djing as an egocentric hedonistic group-happening, is a beautiful thing to see in a nightlife more and more dominated by absurd rituals of similar behavement. But the music itself, sorry but not sorry: there is not so much of a genius attached. To me he is more or less a very talented producer whose ideas are helpful for those able to create some more enlightened.
All this being said: his new album “Arca” (XL Recordings) is much improved for the fact that he sings (in Spanish) and this brings him a bit closer to the territory he worked on with Björk.
Essaie Pas “Facing The Music (Function Dub)”
Those who had the pleasure to lose a few nights of their lifetime to the sound of Berghain resident and New York city nightlife veteran Function know how the game works: techno in its deepest incarnation, vibrating from the inner core of its existence.
His remix for DFA act Essaie Pas may wear the “dub” in its title, but that refers only to his missing voice here, the track itself is an energetic, dark and nervous stomp through a Stalker-meets-Solaris-esk cold architecture.
Dettmann | Klock
The “Phantom Studies” of Bergain heavyweights Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock deliver seven studies in sometimes dark and minimal, sometimes dusty and marching techno. This new effort showcases these two fine artist with a very detailed take on their sound. But most of all the track it’s “The World Tonight” that caught my ears with its mad melody taking place over a steady rhythmic symphony.
Thomas Armon Pridgen
I have to admit compared with the mindblowing concert of Kamasi Washington and his band at Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld last year, the gig of Thundercat was a tad conventional (yet still entertaining), but his drummer Thomas Armon Pridgen could have gone solo for the whole night and I would have stayed to live in his flow.
Kamasi Washington “Truth”
Maybe I am wrong her, but I feel like this 13.30-minute-long butterfly of a song was already a central part of last year’s concert in Cologne. But maybe exactly that is its magic trick. “Truth” gives you a timeless feeling, like the title says, suddenly everything seems so clear, life and death and all the mess between make sense all of a sudden. When the song suddenly swings high into the spheres of an ecclesiastical symphony, the happiness hormones move you like a rollercoaster.
10 and higher with Black Madonna, Superpitcher and Barnt
Talking about super long songs… there was one day in early January when one by one the new tracks by Barnt, Black Madonna and Superpitcher hit my inbox, all coming in with individual strengths.
Black Madonna gives “He Is the Voice I Hear” all the time in the world to build up, chock full with so many references and a lovely playfulness – only without reaching a peak. Sweet and enticing, the song somehow at the end doesn’t quite find its own identity. It is one thing to drop cream cake tracks in your set to kick off the pie fight on the dancefloor, but another job trying to make all those ingredients fit within the composition of one track. But on the other hand, who cares really, she is such a super fantastic DJ and therefore we love her.
Aksel Schauffler aka Superpitcher, also dropped two overdue works: “Snow Blind” (a scratcher of a smoothie celebrating the beauty of harmonic melodic loops – you feel the power of the sun heating up your full body) and “Little Raver” (one to call the rave-doctor to help him out – well, he cant seriously mean this, does he?)
Daniel Ansorge aka Barnt comes in a little bit shorter than Superpitcher with his two newest tracks. “If She Says She Is A Healer, She Is A Healer” only lasts for 9 minutes and 16 seconds – more importantly it’s an instant Barnt classic, playful, twisted, vigorous and so full of energy. The techno equivalent of a Michael Ballhaus 360 degree tracking shot.
“1-5 1” is a very German minimalist track with a classic sublime mood (and lasts for 10:47 minutes, for those still counting).
“Orgue Deux” by Roland Kaiser Wilhelm
In the shadow of those long format kings you have to look a bit closer to find Roland Kaiser Wilhelm. But the efforts are worth your trying. RKW creates timeless pop ambient loops you just wanna dance the night away to and forget about your troubeling soul.
I recently walked in Berlin in one of those Cafes I never enter normally as it just does not seem fittin to sit between mothers with childs. But, hey, the weather was wet and ugly and I needed the cafein fix – just to get positioned next table to ANOHNI. We shared an harmonic eye contact including recognition, recognition of the recognition and the unspoken agreement of no further steps here. Well, why should I have done so? The deeper mystery and essentiell force of the music of ANONHI is the shyness and other worldness of its creator. You ain´t wanna lose the magic, do you?
Last years album “Hopelessness” and the Cologne and Barcelona shows I were able to catch, were absolute highlights to me. The “Paradise EP” is quite more abstract and prescribed but nothing less fascinating in its consequent dramaturgy: from atmospheric over popy to deconstructed noisy befor the stillness that follows a storm takes over and a “Nola Speech” talks to us about the “better place to live for all of us”.
Roky Erickson „All that may do my rhyme“ (Play Loud)
“I remember her in her dream walking down the road
Running from what she did not know
Thinking she was all alone
And I’m gonna free her when I see her
And I’m gonna free her”
(“I´m Gonna Free Her”)
Phantom Kino Ballett presents ”The Applicant”
Yes, I am not unprejudiced when it comes to the works of Sarah Szczesny and Lena Willikens. But their performance during Art Cologne week at Stüdyo made me dizzy. So much to see, so much to feel – I only wished that I had several bodies to walk through their performance with.
Health issues part X. My dentist (a real music lover who hosts great concerts at his offspace tastatut in Cologne) is a gentle man giving one the feeling not to walk alone on the road of destruction. Apparently it is a widespread disease that thing called Teeth Gnashing. I would not drop it here, if he would not have talked me in self hypnosis to get ahead of the game. Well done, doc, I wrote this column under the influence of my own mildy voice.
8 hours of Lena Willikens
Another not unselfconsciously tip of mine here, the 8-hour-residency-show of Lena Willikens for NTS radio, such a privilege to work that intense with this outstanding artist.
And, “Damn.”, this Kendrick Lamar album keeps growing and growing. Let´s see on which positions this will finish summary-edition of “120 days of 2017”.
New entries of the last days to watch:
- Pearson Sound Ep “Robin Chasing Butterflies”
- Gas “Narkopop”
- Jlin “Black Origami”
- Phanta Du Prince “The Triad – Ambient Version”
- Noga Erez “Off The Radar”
- Gunnar Haslam “Kalaatsakia”
- Umfang “Symbolic Use Of Light”
- Laurel Halo “Dust”
Thank you for your time, as always very much appreciated.