Music Montag: Alec Empire VS Elvis Presley

by James Glazebrook

Alec Empire VS Elvis Presley

Last thursday was the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, and this will have him turning in his grave. It may be nearly 15 years old, but Alec Empire is one of my heroes and Elvis is, well, Elvis. What one might assume would be Empire’s most commercial work is actually one of his most noisy and uncompromising. If you want to find out what kind of twisted fuck produces a track like “Jailhouse Cock Rocks the Most”, you can read my interview with Alec Empire (spoiler alert! He’s actually very nice).

ULA Berlin

by James Glazebrook

ULA Berlin dining room

Whatever your misgivings about the gentrification of Berlin, one obvious upside is that upscale restaurants are fast opening in the city. One of the most recent is ULA Berlin, a modern Japanese restaurant and bar with an intriguing menu and an enviable sake selection.

ULA Berlin sign

Once we had been welcomed inside the handsomest dinner spot we’ve been to in Berlin, we admired the warmly-lit dark wood interior while supping on distinctive, Eastern-influenced cocktails. Zoë enjoyed a smooth Asian Tonic (vodka, ginger ale, tonic, St. Germain, lemongrass stirrer), but the highlight was my Basil Smasch – gin with lemongrass, sugar syrup and basil. The Kubota sake we were then served was refreshing and sweet, whetting our appetites nicely.

ULA Berlin bar

ULA Berlin place chopsticks

Struggling to choose from all the delicious-sounding dishes, I made my life easier by opting for one of ULA’s set menus. You can see my centrepiece course, the Sukiyaki (Kanto style) – a hot pot of beef sirloin – sizzling away in the background of the photo below, behind Zoë’s grilled Iberian pork chop with soy sauce and butter.

ULA Berlin grilled Iberian pork chop

For our other many, many courses, we chose equally well. ULA’s Three Signature Appetizers were particularly delightful: Sashimi shrimp and vegetables in Ponzu (citrus jelly), vegetable roll with tuna confit and sesame sauce, and chicken roll with budock root, served with grilled spring onion.

ULA Berlin Three Signature Appetizers

ULA Berlin tuna

ULA Berlin sushi

As well as this creative cooking, ULA offers that rare thing in Berlin: a decent dessert menu. We limited ourselves to sharing a flourless foundant au chocolat, with sesame and coconut crème glacée, which was rich and sumptuous, just like our surroundings. For refined dining and upscale Asian cuisine, both hard to find in this city, we thoroughly recommend ULA Berlin.

ULA Berlin dessert

ULA Berlin place settings

Music Montag: Emika (Radiohead cover)

by James Glazebrook

Emika red lips

How come artists based in Berlin keep covering Radiohead? Because of the same impeccable taste that brought them here, probably. Hot on the heels of PHIA’s version of “15 Step”, comes an Emika take on “Exit Music (For a Film)”, recorded for Musikexpress’ Tribute to OK Computer. Check out the Ninja Tune star’s wonky future-garage rework after the jump.

Expath: Helping you get started in Berlin

by Guest Blogger

Aoife McKeon is a journalist and runaway from Northern Ireland, who has recently arrived in Berlin. We sent along to check out a service designed to help newbies just like her.

So, you want to move to Berlin.

You want to flee the tyranny of bars that close at 1am, work in an art gallery and find a cheap flat that’s at least six times as big as your hovel back home? Great! It’s a dream shared by countless others who want to do just that, so it’s time to start planning your escape.

Instead of figuring out all the boring bits for yourself, however, why not let someone else do it for you? Stephan Brenner and Tia Robinson had that idea, and little over a month ago they started providing “integration services” in the form of a seminar and German lessons for confused newbie expats wondering what exactly it was they were supposed to do when they arrived in Berlin. Welcome to Expath.

expath logo

20€ gets you a two hour seminar with English teacher Tia, a Berlin veteran of six years, in their small office in a former toilet block tucked away in the huge redbrick Wye complex in Kreuzberg. Everything’s broken down into a simple step-by-step lesson plan, from basics such as how to register your address, how to get a visa, where to get a social security number for work, how to tackle the job market and subletting, to sorting out your banking and good places to hang out for networking. Clients are emailed a list of questions beforehand so Tia can focus on the stuff that’s really relevant to them, and given that seminars are taught in small groups, it’s easy to ask questions and find out things you couldn’t possibly know until you had lived here for a while. She can even recommend tax advisers and health insurance providers, should you last in Berlin long enough to worry about such things.

expath Wye complex

If you are planning on running away to another country, it’s probably best to do your research before you come. If you haven’t, Expath’s seminar is probably invaluable; even if you have, Tia and Stephan offer a friendly voice of reason among all the scary German words and horror stories about unemployment statistics and rising rents. It’s nice to hear someone tell you that “Anmeldebestatigung” only means address registration, and that, no, you won’t get kicked out of Germany if you don’t do it in time, or that there’s another place you didn’t know about to look for jobs. It’s more “Berlin for Beginners” than “integration”, as ultimately, that takes time.

There’s already a wealth of information on the Internet on what to do, how to move and where to go, something you’ll probably know as an überlin reader. I’d already done my research but if I could have paid 20€ to sit back, take notes and listen to useful advice instead, I would have done it as soon as I got here. Tia might not be able to hold your hand while you sit in the Burgeramt for four hours or magically make your visa application get accepted, but she does make everything seem a lot easier than trawling threads on irate message boards or picking through websites would have you believe.

expath flow diagram

Part of the fun of moving abroad is trying to figure it out for yourself, and if you fancy the challenge, do it. It’s what I did, and it’s what other people have to do. Berlin’s already a big enough place to get used to when you first get here, though, and all Expath want to do is save you a bit of hassle along the way.

Images courtesy of Expath. To find out more about Expath and its services for expats, check out expath.de.

FREE PUSSY RIOT! Peaches takes Prenzlauer Berg!

by James Glazebrook

Peaches Free Pussy Riot 1

Zoë just had an interesting Skype conversation with her mum about Pussy Riot, without either of them mentioning the actual name of the band! Of course it’s a good thing that the cause is gaining mainstream attention, and I’m sure people like Madonna and Pete Townsend mean well… but it was really thrilling to see a fellow feminist, and no-doubt influence on the Riot girls, take to the Berlin streets for some D.I.Y flashmob rabble-rousing.

This afternoon, Peaches filmed a video for her own Free Pussy Riot protest song, and invited fans to don masks and neon colours, and march down Oderberger Strasse into Mauerpark. Cue chants of “WE ARE ALL PUSSY RIOT!”, bemused tourists, and an appearance by the Polizei. But not before Peaches laid an egg. FREE PUSSY RIOT!

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Read more about Free Pussy Riot, and find out how you can help, at change.org.

Music Montag: Caspa ft. Keith Flint

by James Glazebrook

Caspa Keith Flint War Berlin

“WAR” (IN CAPITALS!) is a collaboration between two London(ish) noise annoyers, brostepper Caspa and Prodigy punk Keith Flint. But where else would they set their dystopian vision of a video than Berlin? This was shot in and around Heilstätte Grabowsee, an infamous abandoned former tuberculosis sanatorium on the outskirts of the city, the perfect location for a Fight Club-Tank Girl-Mad Max-squat party. The best thing about this video? When it featured on Vimeo, one of their staff commented: “I’m scared to visit Europe now.” FATAL.

Berlin Lakes: Schlachtensee

by James Glazebrook

Schlechtes Wetter! We’re feeling pretty smug that we chose last week to visit Schlachtensee, as the dry 30°C+ conditions were perfect for a day by the water. It seems like most of Berlin had the same idea, as what is probably the city’s most easily accessible lake (next door to both S- and U-Bahn stations) was teeming with half-naked (and some fully-naked) people of all ages, paddling, swimming and soaking up the sun. We chilled out, had a picnic, walked the 5.5km circumference of the lake – half of which permitted dogs of the leash (good news for Olive!) – before making the short S-Bahn ride home. Here are Zoë’simpressions of a day out in beautiful German nature.