Music Montag: IAMX

by James Glazebrook


The best thing to come out of the storm-in-a-teacup over *that* New York Times Aussie-slacker-in-Berlin blog was the knowledge that Chris Corner is still producing music, in Berlin – his base since 2006. Buried at the bottom of The Local’s critique, “Struggling with Berlin’s artsy hype”, was a link to IAMX, the alias under which Corner has just released a video, “The Unified Field”.

I hadn’t heard anything from the Sneaker Pimps co-founder since their largely-overlooked second album Splinter, for which Corner took over vocals and steered the trip-hop group into darker, more emo territory. That was back in 1999, which feels like a long time ago, but the singer, multi instrumentalist and video artist is still ticking all my boxes, from his motto “electronic sex and emotional strength” to his choice of collaborators and remixers: to name a few, Combichrist, Terence Fixmer and Imogen Heap.

IAMX’s brand of electro-pop resembles a dark, twisted version of Hurts, the kind of sleek beat music that Matt Bellamy clearly wishes Muse was making. Given the industry support it deserves, the album from which “The Unified Field” is taken wouldn’t be in the crowdfunding stage, it would already be finished and finding its way into you mum’s Christmas stocking. But we sympathise with Corner’s sentiment that “Berlin has given me the spirit to care less about the music industry and take an independent route” – his creativity is clearly thriving as a result.

Go to Pledgemusic and help make the new IAMX album and DVD a reality.

How to Survive a Berlin Winter

by James Glazebrook

We’ve said it before: Berlin only has two seasons, summer and winter. As soon as it’s too cold to spend whole weekends in a beer garden or barbecue every meal, Berliners start ominously whispering “winter is coming”, as if they were Ned bloody Stark. Sometimes this is meant as a hint – “time to go back to your tropical homeland, sunboy” – but some of us are genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of Berlinoobs. If you’ve only been to the city during one of its long, blissful summers, and you come from a hot country – one that doesn’t even have winters – then you’re going to need all the help you can get.

So here’s our handy guide to surviving a Berlin winter, illustrated by Josh Bauman, the talented bastard behind Caffeinated Toothpaste:
Layer up! by Josh Bauman

Layer up!
You’re going to need a killer winter wardrobe of fur, capes, long johns and serious boots. For inspiration, look to this outfit Zoë put together, or, well, Ned Stark. But until those fleamarket trips pay off, you’ll have to make do with what you have. Upend that single suitcase you brought when you moved here, and lay out all those bikinis, bermuda shorts and belly tops. Now put them all on. As soon as you find a cape or a Jack Wolfskin coat big enough to cover all that shit, you’re set!

Stay inside! by Josh Bauman
Stay inside!
Even though we get out more now than when we lived in London, we’re still complete homebodies next to most Berlin party people. Here are some tips to help you stay warm by replicating our shut-in lifestyle:

  • Quit your job! Or freelance from home. Travelling to work is for suckers
  • Rearrange your apartment. Cluster all your furniture so you can live within a square metre of the one radiator that really works, or failing that, the oven. While you’re there, preheat it to 200°C for your underwear
  • If you do work from home, forget any pretence of getting out of bed and drag your coffee machine, fridge – and an empty 2 litre bottle ???? –  into your Schlafzimmer
  • Buy a Beamer. Fuck travelling to a cinema to see whatever Christmassy crap has just been released – just hold your own film screenings
  • Live on takeaway. Services like pizza.de and lieferando (or bloomsburys for the Yukis) let you order online, without even attempting to speak German. Also, the extra fat is great insulation if you do decide to go outside…

Get outside! by Josh Bauman
Get outside!
The only way to avoid cabin fever is to break up time spent indoors with brief spells of outdoor awesomeness. We’ve found that spending just 5% of your time outside is enough to avoid becoming Jack from The Shining. Here’s how to inject some strategic outside into your life:

  • Do it in the daytime! Going outside while it’s dark is more depressing than staying indoors
  • Walk on a frozen canal, or even the Spree. Best thing you’ll do all winter
  • Geek out at awesome indoor attractions like the Computer Games Museum or Loxx – this miniature railway version of Berlin is the best way to see the city without having to be out in it!
  • Glühwein. I could ride out a life sentence in a Siberian labour camp if they gave me a mug of mulled wine every couple of hours

Grow a beard!
Like you need a reason…

Trust science!
Don’t panic, but this is about to get scientific. Having spent the second half of the year predicting the worst winter on record, Berliners *always* say, “That was nothing – last winter was much worse.” So either global warming is working in our favour, and pretty soon we’ll spend our winters complaining about the sunburn and mosquitos, or these harsh winters are something you just get used to. Either way, good news. Thanks science!

Summerfy it!
Speaking of science, I can’t believe no one’s offered to buy the patented technology behind our Summerfy app. Summerfy uses augmented reality to layer summery sunshine over the grimmest winter scenes, and even turns Berliners’ frowns upside down. As soon as startup founders start gravitating here from Brazil instead of London and Scandinavia, we expect this to be snapped up. Look out for it in the app stores!

Remember: it’s not forever!
Berlin winters last for four-and-a-half months – six at most. Half a year of blistering cold and near constant pitch-blackness is a small price to pay for living in the greatest city in the world… right? Before you know it, you’ll be shaking your shit on a faked-up beach bar with a cocktail in each hand. Maintain.

Winter Walkies

by Zoë Noble












Music Montag: My Dry Wet Mess

by James Glazebrook

My Dry Wet Mess

Photo by Amanda Ceccato 2012

My Dry Wet Mess is an Italian producer and visual artist who’s relocated to Berlin via Barcelona. Born Giovanni Civitenga, to the bass player in Ennio Morricone’s orchestra, he started making beats aged 14, trying to recreate the wibe of De La Soul’s Stakes is High using a sampler and an Atari. After studying Interactive Design, an audiovisual collaboration with Daedelus prompted the Californian eccentric to sign Civitenga to his Magical Properties imprint, and release the MDWM debut Irrational Alphabet.

Now on Brainfeeder, after a bootleg version of “Pieface” by Flying Lotus caught the label boss’ attention, My Dry Wet Mess has just released his second long player, Stereo Typing. Listen to this album sampler and standout track “Clappin’ Ears” and, alongside Civitenga’s LA mentors, you might hear his formative influences – Squarepusher, Alva Noto, the object-sampling virtuosos Matmos – sprinkled with a handful of the producer’s own fairy dust.

Stereo Typing by My Dry Wet Mess is out now on Brainfeeder.

Ask überlin: Don’t you feel responsible for Berlin’s gentrification nightmare?

by James Glazebrook

As a Berlin blog run by expats, who try to help other internationals make a life for themselves here, we’re used to being targeted by locals angry about the gentrification of their city. But we were taken aback by the vitriol behind John John’s comment on our original Ask überlin… ANYTHING post:

Did you notice that the Graefekiez is now Berlin’s most expensive area ? That many people are leaving because they can’t afford it ? Did you notice that Kreuzberg is NOT cool anymore ? Don’t you feel responsible for the gentrification nightmare of your Kiez ? How much did you purchase your flat and how much do you expect to sale it ? Do you still feel welcome in Kreuzberg despite the fact that most people there obviously hate the kind of person you represent – long-term tourists with no connection to Germany or Berlin ? Are you aware that Berlin is QUICKLY losing all the things that made the city special ? How does it feel to be an english hipster caricature in a city where english hipsters are not welcome anymore ?

I’ve given a lot of thought to our response, because John John has a couple of valid points. Sometimes we do present ourselves (jokingly) as hipster caricatures – this comment came about a week after I dicked about for the You know you’re a Berliner when… photos. And, as people willing and able to pay higher rents than those who used to live in our Kiez, we are part of the problem… But the comment’s xenophobia, false assumptions (we rent, and have no plans to buy) and faulty argument – that we are responsible for an economic process much larger than ourselves – deserve to be addressed.

Ares Kalandides, the blogger behind Place Management & Branding, put it better than I could and kindly gave us permission to republish one of his posts. He may be talking about Neukölln rather than Kreuzberg, and responding to an old, notorious anti-Touri video, but what he says applies equally to our neighbourhood and  our situation:

This short film appeared about 2 years ago on the web. It is called “offending the clientele” and that’s pretty much what it does. But what’s the issue here? Who’s offending whom? And why? This is about Neukölln in Berlin and the story is not a straightforward one. It’s the story of a perceived invasion with strange aftertones of a very reactionary “sense of place”: “Help! We are being attacked by foreigners! They happen to be tourists, but just the same! It’s them against us“.

Once upon a time, not very long ago, Neukölln was a Berlin neighbourhood with the worst reputation you could get. Mayors and ministers stigmatized it as ghetto, poverty was visible everywhere, violence was supposed to be growing in its streets. And then a couple of years ago something started to move. Students who could not afford the more expensive areas of Friedrichshain or even Kreuzberg started discovering Neukölln for themselves. Bars, clubs, fashion shops and cafés began opening up – first catering to a local student community, but very soon to a broader international mobile scene of young discount travellers.

If you think about it, this is not really a unique story. Germans simply take it for granted that they are tourists, invading the whole world – every summer or winter resort. But also, there is no spot on earth no matter how far away, how hidden, how protected, that does not fall victim of these voracious visitors. Now suddenly somebody has turned the tables on them: Berlin in general, Neukölln in particular, have become a favourite destination for tourists who – let’s be honest – are very very much like the local student scene. Actually, what they are looking for in this case is not difference, but similarity. Neukölln feels so familiar for the creative party crowds no matter where they come from. Now Italians and Spaniards are “invading” Berlin as their countries have been invaded for decades (ever heard of Mallorca? Or Venice?..). It reminds me so much of the rhetoric of former European colonial powers, who now wonder what all the formerly colonized are doing among them.

So what’s exactly the trouble? In a sense, a very real one. Who wants to be the animal in the zoo, being watched, observed, scrutinized? Who wants her/his lifestyle commodified and consumed for somebody else’s pleasure? When the beer you bought yesterday for 2 Euros is suddenly 3, because your pub has become so popular with tourists, of course it’s an issue. Ask the Spanish, Italian, Greeks, Turks who’ve had that kind of thing for decades and they’ll agree.  So the problem is not that it’s happening, it’s just that now it’s happening to us. Weird logic…

Of course gentrification is not a joke. It means that people with a lower income will very probably have to move away and that does not only include students. It may mean the real urban poor, the ones who have very very little and not really a choice. Probably also the ones with the strongest attachments to the neighbourhood, explained by their relative lack of mobility. Gentrification produces very real losers. And it’s not just “the way things are”, as a desperately naive Neukölln caterer from Detroit put it: it is the result of political choices, laws and regulations put together to produce just that effect.

It’s just that this video is not really about gentrification, if you think about it, is it? It’s not about the poor and the rich, it’s about us and them. And that is what makes it so absolutely offensive.

What do you think? We’re interested in having a real discussion about the gentrification of Berlin, so please leave your thoughts, opinions and ideas in the comments below.