Music Montag: Emika (Chris Isaak cover)

by James Glazebrook

Emika Wicked Game

Damn, Emika is good at covers! Last summer, we posted her version of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)”, and now the Berlin-based star has released her take on Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”, from her forthcoming album Dva. Em strips back the sex-on-the-beach classic, with her ghostly vocals floating over the top of plaintive piano and delicate beats, suggesting that her sophomore Ninja Tune release will be more orientated towards headphones than dancefloors.

You can download “Wicked Game” for free by signing up to the Emika mailing list hereDva drops on Ninja Tune on June 10, 2013; follow Emika on Facebook for news and updates.

Buchstabenmuseum, Berlin’s Museum of Letters

by Guest Blogger

A trip to Berlin’s idiosyncratic Buchstabenmuseum with Jenni Fuchs, a museologist blogging over on Museum Diary.

Buchstabenmuseum Berlin

Anyone remember Lefty the Salesman, who used to try and sell poor old Ernie letters of the alphabet on Sesame Street? (“Psst! Would you like to buy an O?”) Stepping in to Berlin’s Buchstabenmuseum (Museum of Letters), where you are immediately surrounded by hundreds of letters ranging from a few centimetres short to close to three metres high, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into Lefty’s depot. Except these letters aren’t for sale.

Buchstabenmuseum Berlin yellow letters

Founded as a charitable organisation in 2005 by Barbara Dechant and Anja Schulze, whose love for typography dates back to their childhoods, what started out as a private collection was opened to the public in 2008. Since then it has become a favourite with letterform lovers from around the world, who truly must feel like a kid in a candy shop. The museum has around 200 exhibits in its collection, though if you counted the individual letters of the words and signs, there would be many more.

Buchstabenmuseum Berlin red room

Half of the museum is set in semi-darkness, to let the collection of neon lit letters reach their full potential, but visitors receive a small torch at the entrance to help them read the exhibit labels. Other letters are grouped by colour, so there are, for example, yellow and green, blue and white, and red rooms. Many of the letters are intentionally displayed out of context, to keep the focus on the typographical form rather than the original words or names. So far, all the collected letters are from the Roman alphabet and the majority come from Berlin and the surrounding areas, though there are also acquisitions from further afield in Germany as well as elsewhere in Europe, e.g. Vienna and Paris. The curators hope to add letters from further locations and indeed other alphabets to the collection in the future.

Buchstabenmuseum Berlin blue and green room

Although the exhibition space in Mitte bills itself as a showroom, the museum aims to not only collect and exhibit letters, characters and words from around the world, but also to document, research, preserve and restore them. Each exhibit comes with a note of its production (if known) and acquisition dates, font type, original location, size and material. Many of the fonts are custom made, which is not surprising considering the majority come from traditional family businesses, which developed their own trademark signage. Other sources include building, cinema, exhibition and factory signage as well as letters used on film sets or for events.

Zierfische neon sign Buchstabenmuseum

One particularly special exhibit is the “Zierfische” (ornamental fish) signage, which adorned an aquarium store in Berlin Friedrichshain in the 1980s and 90s. The lettering was designed by graphic artist Manfred Gensicke from his own handwriting, and the museum has not only the salvaged sign alongside neon fish in its collection – acquired after thwarting an attempt to steal them from the former store – but also Gensicke’s original sketches. “Zierfische” has since even been developed in to an actual font.

Buchstabenmuseum Berlin blue and white room

The founders’ goal is to set up a museum with a permanent exhibition covering the history and evolution of letters and writing, alongside a programme of temporary exhibitions on challenging and experimental topics. The need to find the perfect space has become more urgent than anticipated: last month the museum announced they would have to vacate their current premises at the end of March, as the old GDR shopping mall they’re located in is being renovated. It would be devastating to see the end of this little gem of a museum, but the search is on for a new home so hopefully it will be “Auf Wiedersehen” and not “Good Bye”. If anyone knows of a good location in Berlin (minimum requirement is at least 300 m2 with high ceilings, with daylight and central heating optional), you can get in touch with the museum at kontakt@buchstabenmuseum.de. You can also visit them in their current location in the Berlin Carré on Karl Leibknecht Straße until 30th March. They are open Thursdays – Saturdays from 1pm-3pm and admission is a mere €2.50.

Buchstabenmuseum Berlin letter As

I most certainly wish the Buchstabenmuseum well in their endeavours, both to find the perfect space and secure their future, as well as in adding the one missing letter to their collection from A to Z – the elusive letter J!

Metal Montag: Comeback Kid

by James Glazebrook

Mike T West brings the Mosh Montag!

Comeback Kid

Oodles of top stuff has escaped from Canada: Chromeo, Scott Pilgrim and Due South, to name but a few. This Friday, one of the nation’s harder exports Comeback Kid will chokeslam Friedrichshain in half, as part of the moshtastic 4th annual Mazine Rebellion Tour (Rebellion 4 to the “kids”).

Originally formed earlier this century as a side project, these hardcore Canucks (CBK to the “kids”) are still tearing up stages across the globe. After releasing the cruelly-underrated Symptoms + Cures in 2010, they will soon be celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut LP Turn It Around. With a live show that is 200% pure punk – first-distilled at the Melodic HC brewery then fermented over years spent playing festivals, tours and toilets of varying size – Comeback Kid are a sonic dragon punch to the face.

Now in its fourth iteration, the Rebellion Tour has been windmilling across Europe this month, and is the only event this weekend where it will be socially acceptable to break someone’s nose. Also appearing are LA mosh architects Terror who will be activiating the pit with their pattented “vogelisms”(Current favourite – “I want to see exactly 17 stagedives during this song. No more. No less.”) Joining them are English metal oiks Your Demise and New Yoik thug cheesecakes, bitch-its-please-mothertuggin’ Madball!

Stike a dirty scene pose with the crew this Friday at Astra Kulturhaus, Revaler Str. 99, from 7pm.

Metal Montag: Rammstein

by James Glazebrook

Rammstein, Oslo 2012 by NRK P3 under license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Rammstein, Oslo 2012 by NRK P3 under license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It’s my birthday and I’ll post industrial metal if I want to! No news from Rammstein, but they’re from Berlin, so nyuh! Here’s a classic live clip, featuring some insane custom pyrotechnics – like the fans say, “Other bands play, Rammstein burns!” Happy burnsday to me ????

Interview: Give Something Back to Berlin

by James Glazebrook

Annamaria Olsson and Anders Ivarsson are the brains behind an exciting new project called Give Something Back to Berlin, which will connect expats with community projects here in the city. Read on to find out more about GSBTB and how to get involved.

Annamaria Olsson and Anders Ivarsson Give Something Back To Berlin

by Jessica Povoa

Who are you and how did you come up with the idea for Give Something Back To Berlin?

We are Anders and Annamaria, two quite typical new-Berliners. We came here five years ago to take part in the city’s brilliant vibe with music, culture and interesting history… Anders worked as a freelance translator and ran a record label, while Annamaria studied and wrote.

As a DJ and a journalist we were in many ways at the epicentre of Berlin culture and expat life. From this viewpoint, we saw the city going through a lot of rapid changes and noticed some challenges in both expat and ”normal” Berlin life. Having lived in Kreuzberg and Neukölln it was obvious that a lot of different groups are ”struggling” within the city.

What kind of challenges and struggles do you mean?

The related issues of gentrification and increasing rents have obvious consequences for poor Berliners with limited opportunities. The mix of those two social questions leads to a lot of frustration and tension. Some people have the feeling that a lot of expats are not getting ”integrated” but just consuming/using the city as their own playground while other people get pushed out or get nowhere.

This discussion has been very polemic, at times xenophobic, and has avoided seeing the big picture or creating any good ideas for how to deal with this new situation. People seem to look more for people to blame than actual solutions, which is both sad and counterproductive. Because it doesn’t matter how much Angela Merkel says that the idea of ”multiculti is dead”, or racist and nationalist parties say that they want no immigrants – migration is a hard fact for the whole world, be it Muslims or creative freelancers. Expats and other groups are in Berlin to stay, so they need to find ways of living and working together, not against each other.

Most expats love this city and want to contribute in different ways. With Give Something Back To Berlin we wanted to create a good alternative, somewhere where new- and Alt-Berliners can meet, get to know each other and the city in a broader sense, and at the same time contribute to society and make this city better for everyone. Whether you are German, an expat or any kind of Berliner, we believe that you should share not only with your own kind, and that broad views are the key to understanding and progress.

Give Something Back to Berlin logo

What is the project and how does it work?

The idea is very simple – the initative helps expats and new Berliners get socially involved. Through our online portal and social media channels people can easily sign up to donate their skills and a couple of hours to a local initiative that is helping to improving other Berliners’ lives. Maybe a soup kitchen for homeless people needs some extra help, a kids’ centre wants to offer extra English lessons or a girl’s club wants some cool women to talk about different kinds of career possibilities. Our partner organisations tell us their needs, we post them, you sign up and get involved!

Why is it only for expats?

It’s not ”only” for expats, but because we are doing everything on a volunteer basis with no funding, we thought this would be a good place to start. If someone were to give us a lot of money, of course we will open up Give Something Back to Berlin! There are already existing infrastructures for native Germans to get involved in, and we will work with them, but for many expats it might seem too daunting for them to get involved directly.

What kind of projects will you work with?

We met a lot of different organizations over the last months and they are excited to work with us! They include Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands, with their huge network of 1,000 employees and 750 volunteers, Kulturwerkstatt Neukölln, The Roma Theatre Café, St. Richard Gemeinde with its night café and soup kitchen for the homeless, Youth Club Bildog at Richardschule, the AIDS-home and café The Orangerie, Schilleria Mädchen Café in Neukölln, Nachbarschaftshaus Centrum, Kreuzberg… to mention just a few.

What’s happening next?

Give Something Back To Berlin will officially launch in April when we will start posting the ”givings”. Until then we are busy contacting the partner organizations, organising the project, searching for funding, building websites and planning events where expats and social organizations can meet, mingle and talk about possibile collaborations. If you (expat or German) feel like helping us building the project – holla right back to us! We are always in need of skilled people! Our GSBTBerliner Luke Atcheson is setting up a pilot project offering English lessons to local social organisations right now, so if you are interested in contributing you can contact him on lukeatcheson@gmail.com. You can also like us and Facebook and help us spread the Give Something Back to Berlin idea so we will have a lot of possible ”givers” when it all kicks off.

Follow Give Something Back To Berlin on Facebook or check out the website givesomethingbacktoberlin.com.

Frühling Good: A Photo Walk with Olive

by Zoë Noble

So the sun has finally decide to show up here in Berlin and I think we can all agree it’s about bloody time. When we arrived two years ago people warned us that winter here can be one long grey nightmare and boy were they right! Aaaaaaanyway the sun is here, so we can all cancel those return flights home and enjoy it while it lasts!

My Bloody Valentine confirmed for Berlin Festival 2013

by James Glazebrook

Berlin Festival 2013 "WOO HOO"

“WOO HOO” indeed. Shoegaze originals My Bloody Valentine have just been added to the line-up for Berlin Festival 2013. This year’s festival is already looking pretty incredible, with British bands Blur and the Pet Shop Boys joined by relative newcomers Savages and Dillon, as well as a huge contingent from Ed Banger Records and local heroes Ellen Allien and Fritz Kalkbrenner, brother of Berlin Calling star Paul. Despite all of that, and the promise of more to come, it’s Kevin Shields and co. we’re most excited about seeing. So check out this rough and raw footage of MBV way back in 1989, and join us on Tempelhof field in September to see the real thing:

To find out more visit the Berlin Festival website. And listen to our highlights of last year’s festival here.