With venues open once more and Spring well and truly upon us, there’s finally cause for optimism in the Berlin music scene. As the vernal equinox rolls over, it’s smiles all around with clubby chugs and balmy indie licks taking charge of our flavour of the month.
Few, if any, of the Copenhagen school have made as significant an impact in Berlin as Courtesy. Though famed for her visceral high BPM techno and unabashed slack-jawed trance revivalism, Night Journeys presents a different, airier organism. Across the four-track EP, Courtesy teases us out of a long hibernation with lush pads and fleet-footed arpeggios, gently picking away at the locks of an all too long year.
Already an unholy combination on paper, Perel and Marie Davidson venture beyond the pale to ask us if Jesus really was an alien. Of course, there’s a winking irony here and a genuine meditation on who we believe in and how we believe in it. ‘Jesus Was An Alien’ reads like the Gospel for all those who find rapture on the dancefloor. Replete with chugging electro riffs, breathless vocals, and transcendent synth, ‘Jesus Was An Alien’ is glorious in the biblical sense.
GRIP TIGHT – Coming Up For Air [Reveal Records]
London-born, Berlin-based producer GRIP TIGHT sidles onto the scene with his fabulous debut LP Full Future. On a 12-track release of rare consistency, ‘Coming Up For Air’ glints that much brighter than the rest — unplaceable yet distinct. Maybe it’s because it’s such a warm record, an unusual quality in slow jams that so often find themselves mired in molasses. Perhaps it’s the searching beats that beg to be flooded with personal context. Or, perhaps, it’s just a fantastic record that manages to mould malaise into meaning that is both rich and new. Whatever you get from GRIP TIGHT, trust us when we say it’s worth a spin.
Curses – Miriam [Dischi Autunno]
What a record. Anyone unfamiliar with its inspiration, The Hunger, a roundly panned 80s vampire flick, might take refuge in echoes of Suspiria, Profondo Rosso, and the proud tradition of dark Italo. More Boy Harsher than Claudio Simonetti, ‘Miriam’ is a gorgeous track that finally lends substance to the style some forty years later. A satin sash, a strip of lace, a virgin swatch of alabaster flesh — draw long and draw deep; there is pleasure in the dark.
Ultraflex – Relax [Street Pulse]
Dreams — the most intangible of nouns, are at this point synonymous with the Norwegian/Icelandic producer duo. Though Nordic by origin, this pop pairing exudes “Neukölln soft” in a way that few other bands can claim. Though undoubtedly inspired by an 80s aesthetic, there’s nothing old-school about this tune. It drifts by on decidedly new age melodies and stoic incantations. To listen to ‘Relax’ is to be wrest into that late night/early morning mode where we get to grasp at flimsy visions for those too few minutes when reality feels that much more malleable.
Various Artists – Turn The Tables For Ukraine [Turn The Tables]
There is no speaking of the month gone by without recognising the tragedy unfolding by the invasion of Ukraine. At one point last year, it seemed inevitable that Ukraine would supplant Berlin in the vibrancy of its underground music and arts scene. Yet, while excitement is currently thin on the ground, hope and solidarity have swelled. Turn The Tables For Ukraine is a diverse album that takes in all the varied electronica of that burgeoning moment. To listen, emathise, and take action is to help, and 100% of all proceeds of this compilation will go to The Voices of Children Foundation. They provide psychological and psychosocial support to Ukrainian children affected by war since 2015.
Novaa – She’s A Star [Novalty]
Novaa burst onto the scene in 2019 with an eponymous debut album that revealed their presence at the top of everybody’s “one to watch” list. Now returning with the alt-pop hit She’s A Star, there is little doubt that potential is being fulfilled. Her new single cascades into the liminal zone between ethereal soul and bedroom pop with all the yearning one might expect from an artist on the cusp of defining her sound. There’s a lot to like here, not just the sweeping production and heartfelt lyricism but also her association with artists like Lie Ning and other starlets of a very Berlin form of R&B.
Logic1000 – Rush [Therapy / Because Music]
Since their debut EP Perfume, Aussie producer Logic1000 has been a constant blip on the radar of every dance music connoisseur in Berlin. What began with euphoric hands in the air house on ‘You’ve Got A Long Way To Go’ has evolved, matured, and intensified into a bonafide roller on ‘Rush’. It’s testament to their growth as an artist that this sweaty beat feels all too short at just over four minutes. Logic1000 is acquiring that most auspicious of talents in a young producer — restraint. They say to leave them wanting more, and on the back of this classy production, we will be waiting with baited breath.
Firm City – Handsome Rover
Firm City is the band you never knew you needed to know. Berlin by way of Dublin, this group might only be on their second single, but this is your chance to get in on the ground level, listen now and revel in your ability to wax lyrical later when they hit it big. Their first single synth-laden pop single, ‘Slew‘, was all over the radio if you knew where to look. ‘Handsome Rover’ is a sensual, melancholic bubbler cut from the same bolt of silken cloth. Firm City’s sparse Avant pop belies a talent for intricate production and the kind of ear for melody that made early Blood Orange so intoxicating.
Open Music Lab – Quanta [OML]
Quanta is the second release from Open Music Lab, a vital community project which pairs growing musicians with learned mentors, offering essential spaces and experiences for development. Up and coming artists Tarabasli, Morphena, and Abed Alfakir all feature alongside remixes from their mentors (Dauwd, Leibniz, and UVB, respectively.) There’s juking acid here, screwball UKG, stonking dark techno, as well as mesmeric, tractor-beam afrobeat. It’s a heady mix of almost everything you could imagine from Berlin’s electronic music scene while also representing only the smallest slice of what’s actually out there. Music is community, and music is collaboration and to keep your eyes on Open Music Lab is to find out how that actually looks.