With Autist and Rainbow Arabia, pop retro futurism meets the club

Electronic music’s popular future is unquestionably tied up with techno nightclubs – for better and for worse. And that’s perhaps no more true than in Berlin, birthplace of Traktor and Ableton Live, in this nation that birthed major DAWs and modular revivals, then became a beacon for the use of said tools to make dance music.

So the question is, where do we go from here? Are clubs about producing effective repetition (literally), or are they also some kind of laboratory for new hybrids of styles?

I’m involved in a second time in a Thursday night experiment of sorts at Berghain, mixing video/visual art with live acts who represent a divergence from the usual form there.

“Berghain” has become a byword for a particular brand of techno, but living next to it means seeing its regular conversion for other purposes, from the Pop-Kultur festival to all manner of live experimentation, sometimes from the bookings from the club and sometimes – as tomorrow night – from guest bookings. And if this is in fact an incubator for some of electronic music’s styles, particularly around Europe, then we get to play with some alternate futures – at least for an evening.

Listen closely to some of these sounds at the edges, and I think you can hear a unique Millennial obsession with making nostalgia and futurism indistinguishable. Those 80s synth tropes and electro and punk flavors become the basis of a musical sci-fi reboot.

And you know, you might buy it, or you might not. It might sound fresh, or it might sound like a throwback. But it is certainly representative of splashes of color, unapologetic pop, and lavish love of synthesizers in the electro context. As some electronic music embraces the darkest side of punk, here’s its poppy, less-goth, electro-not-just-punk alternative.

And for the second time, it’ll play to a Berghain crowd who wouldn’t normally see it inside the aesthetic confines of that space.

Austist is the duo Gariel Santini and Julie Bourgeois. You can almost hear the Paris-to-Berlin transplant process here. It’s French electro and pop, given a transfusion of that unique Berlin vampire blood — heavy synthesizer sounds and bass. And that can be viewed even in technical terms. I once sat in New York listening to David Byrne talk about the impact CBGB’s had on the punk sound. What happens to punk when you do listen regularly to sound systems like Berghain’s Funktion-One, and similar? Of course production and aesthetics will change – even just going out and hearing this, let alone playing on it.

The new record is Constance, and I think is well deserving of a listen.

It’s even telling how this is being released – the music is the project of Tata Christiane, the fashion label at the heart of Berlin’s staunchly anti-conservative, aggressively experimental alternative fashion scene.

It’s hard to describe the whole project, but here’s their sweeping description:

Their recordings aim to expand and connect musical horizons, mixing electronic and acoustic instrumentations, from noisy dance to experimental chanson and soundscapes, with english, french and german lyrics, from spoken words to screaming vocals. The band live performances are an intense physical and sensory experience, integrating heavy wall of electronic, drums, razors guitars, abyssal vocals on top of their own light and video show.

I love this remix, as well – with the latest video:

LA’s Rainbow Arabia (Danny Preston and Tiffany Preston) represent their own unique take on “electro-punk.” Pitchfork I think really hit it on the nose in terms of the ways this is a hybrid. Coming from a release on Kompakt, Rainbow Arabia have polished their sound into a pop synthesis in their fall release, sunnier songs with clear 80s heritage. The video for “Modern Contemporary” is pure Los Angeles Technicolor / Cindy Sherman fantasy:

The release’s standouts are unquestionably to me that track and “Plena”, though I enjoy the totality of this self-released gem:

I meanwhile got cheeky with my own remix of this (free download link included here), playing with speeding up and pitching down the vocals, for a slightly more House-y, androgynous version:

Kaltblut Magazine hosted the premiere and free download.

So, you get two sets of duos as headliners – one French, one American, one LA, one Berlin.

There’s also a mix of artists involved, which I think presents a different picture of the eclecticism of the Berlin scene from the one generally stereotyped now in the world. The wonderful Sky Deep assembled this one, complete with entries by HYENAZ, Rainbow Arabia, SPAAM, Valerie Renay, and 6zm (and again disclosure, she asked for one from me – though I found some new artists this way!).

I’ll be at Berghain tomorrow, showing an AV installation with Czech light artist Gabriela Prochazka. (Happy to let you know about that, if you’re interested.) If you’re around, say hello. And for everyone else, we’ll keep an eye on these acts and these threads in music.

#eclipseberghain:
http://berghain.de/event/2011

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