And just as quickly as it started, CTM 2015 is over! The festival for adventurous music and art enthused, baffled, confused and, well, bored sometimes, yes. While the program definitely often lacked context (seeing a person turning knobs and making noise when you don’t know what they’re doing or what exactly is the point they’re trying to make can get a bit tedious), the diversity of the bookings made for an interesting variety, where one could go from the most ear demolishing noise to maximal-pop and live dub within the same night. After being called-out on the lack of parity in the artist selection, the festival deserves a shout-out for booking what seems to be like just as many women as men, and if an experimental music festival can do that, well every other festival can, and if not we can safely assume that festival bookers are just a bunch of whiny douchebags that are refusing to acknowledge the issue of representation of women in the electronic music scene and who are not even trying to make the slightest effort.
After a couple weeks worth of pondering and procrastinating, we’ve gone and selected five acts we discovered at the festival and that we think you should know about. See you next year!
Extreme Precautions at Astra
The sideproject of French artist Mondkopf was a great way to start a Sunday evening where everyone seemed a bit fragile from the opening party at Yaam the previous night. Extreme Precautions is a digital grindcore onslaught with pounding blastbeats and songs which are over in 30 seconds. Paul Régimbeau’s new project comes as an intentional move away from the moody melancholy of his former albums, and pays homage to some of his harsher influences like Napalm Death. The intensity of his performance sat very well with anyone with anyone with a hardcore background and we recommend giving the full album a listen on Régimbeau’s In Paradisum Bandcamp.
Claire Tolan’s ASMR installation at Bethanien
ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is that tingling feeling you get in the head and spine when you listen to certain types of soft sounds which are deemed pleasurable (nail tapping, finger brushing, soft voices…). Still widely considered a pseudo-science with no official paper written on the subject, the practice has a cult following and thousands of ASMR videos can be found on the internet. The Untune exhibition at Bethanien showcased Always Here for you: ASMR – Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, a series of works by American artist and programmer Claire Tolan, which served as a great introduction to the subject; and when you feel emotional after staring at a brown paper bag for 15 minutes while listening to static and the soothing voice of the ASMRtist, you know something must be working.
Unfortunately none of the videos from the actual exhibition are online but we will let you explore the bottomless world of ASMR by starting with this video. For more info, tune in to Tolan’s You’re Worth It show on Berlin Community Radio.
The bug presents Sirens at Berghain
While The Bug is not by any means a discovery, his Sirens piece was a brisk sidestep away from the usual punishing industrial-ragga material that Kevin Martin has been accustoming us to since the release of his seminal London Zoo album. Loosely based around his track Siren which was released last year on the third Hyperdub compilation, Martin went in big and his performance made use of an extra gigantic stack of speakers nestled on the side of the room between the already humongous Funktion One system of Berghain, a feat which required him to write “three justification letters to Berghain in the lead up to the event, at the request of CTM, stating why, [he] wanted to amplify his sound system through their system, and that, no, [he] didn’t want to kill people with db asphyxiation”. Word. His performance started with what sounded very much like boat horns, slowly echoing and decaying around Berghain. He kept on adding layer upon layer of beautifully controlled feedback, creating stunning waves of harmonics that engulfed the crowd and if you were lucky enough to be in front of the said stack of speakers, also made for an experience which truly pushed the envelope of physicality within the musical realm.
Islam Chipsy at Yaam
Cairo-based Islam Chipsy performs with a rather unusual and quite basic setup of 2 drummers AKA his E.E.K band, with Islam playing on what looks like an extremely basic keyboard. The music of the trio is an ultra-energetic mix of Arabic melodies, in-for-the-kill drumming, and an overall sweaty fun workout. Islam goes from franctically bashing the keyboard, extracting rhythmic patterns from the noise before jumping back into super precise and catchy-as hooks, all the while dancing around and looking extremely happy to be there. Definitely a must-see live.
Nisennenmondai at Astra
After another very-heavy party on the final Saturday at Yaam, Tokyo-based trio Nisennenmondai served as the perfect ingredient to get the Astra crowd back in the game. The all-female band plays live, and when we say live we mean guitar, bass and drums, with guitarist Masako Takada switching to a small popular setup during songs, and the tunes mostly follow a simple but extremely effective recipe of repetitive, hypnotic beats, somewhere on the border between Techno and experimental, but with a strong punk edge. Grab their latest album N, released through Mute subsidiary Blast First Repeat to get a better idea of what you missed.