At long last, it’s finally that time of year when we can transition from complaining about Berlin’s grey, dismal weather to complaining about it being too hot to drink indoors. Summertime signifies a variety of things, like how it’s now socially acceptable to eat ice cream between every meal. Apparently, it also means that festival season is upon us. As a publication of the people, we sympathize with those of you who don’t have the bankroll to skip town for Fusion Festival. Even if you didn’t spend all your money on ice cream, why bother? There’s plenty to keep your attention here within the city limits, plus you don’t have to sleep in a borrowed tent that probably smells like mildew and rat pee. In what is now officially a yearly tradition, we’ve done all the legwork and compiled our must-attend festival listicle (commonly referred to as a ‘festicle’).
Only in its sixth year of existence, Heroines of Sound Festival is making waves by representing an important niche of the music scene. While there is definitely some overlap with genres celebrated by other festivals on this list (A L’ARME, Atonal), HoS specifically hones in on the female contributions to the experimental music community. The festival hosts concerts, installations, performances, videos, and discussions of various formats to showcase female electronic music artists at the highest levels of avant-garde pop, experimental and classical electronic music. Full details about what to expect so far are in the works, but this year’s guest curator is internationally renowned composer, lyricist, performer, and activist Antye Greie / AGF. We trust her judgement.
Krake Festival is just one of the various outstretched tentacles of Berlin label, promoter, and tastemaker, Killekill. The marathon event that they’ve put together is yet another on this list that caters to our fellow experimental weirdos. It largely restricts itself to the realm of all things danceable, but the weeklong festival will make use of the spaces at Silent Green and Urban Spree for their more experimental performers, before wrapping up at Griessmühle for the 48-hour boogie. One of many pulls this year, is Dopplereffekt, a Detroit duo whose spooky and strangely sexual electro sound has come to define the genre and give them true legendary status. For a harder dance, aufnahme+wiedergabe veteran, Schwefelgelb, are definitely not to be missed. Our last brush with them at Urban Spree can succinctly be described as“beefy”: it’s loud, dark, heavy, and will probably leave you with a tummy ache.If you’re not much of a hip-shaker, look towards Moon Armada. Though it doesn’t seem that these noise-freaks from Austin, Texas have released any music, what they do have is various uploaded videos of synthesizers they made out of doll heads. We’re sold.
We’d be lying if we said we’ve heard of most of the artists on the A L’ARME lineup, and that’s exactly what makes this festival so good. It is a genuinely boundary-pushing weekend that brings together artists from the fringes of jazz, experimental, ambient and noise music. With a lot of acts making their Berlin debut (for some, world debut) and some entirely improvised performances, you are guaranteed to be exposed to something new and unique every year. As far as what we are familiar with, we highly recommend checking out the warm and crisp tones of Giovanni Lami, a musician and soundscape artist from Rovenna, Italy. ANGUISH, a collaboration between Dalëk, an experimental MC from New Jersey, kraut-rockers Faust and Mats Gustaffson, a Swedish Saxophonist “ known for his tonal belligerence and intensity when improvising”, is set to be as memorable and challenging as the name suggests. And on the more playful side of things, we recommend checking out Golden Oriole, a guitar and drums duo whose sound brings to mind a combination of Lightning Bolt, Hella, and the soundtrack to Donkey Kong Country on the SNES. Most of all, we suggest bringing an open mind and ears, and letting the event’s curators do the rest of the work.
Pop-Kultur consistently manages to be the highlight of the summer for a couple of reasons: their lineup curation is nearly all killer / no filler, plus they turn the Kulturbrauerei into a place Berlin residents would actually want to hang out for once, rather than the suburb bro-fest that normally ensues on weekends there. On the concert side, this year boasts the following acts that you would be foolish to miss: French bubblegum punks, Decibelles, who were last in town tearing the roof off of Urban Spree at a Schmutz Presents show; Belarusian synth-post-punk and Detriti label member, Molchat Doma, making a rare appearance in Europe; the extraterrestrial hip hop stylings of Shabazz Palaces; and Hamburg’s political art-punk legends, Die Goldenen Zitronen. Damn. There’s actually not enough space to properly talk through everyone we think you should see. Also look for Karies, Repetitor, Mykki Blanco, Deerhoof, Voodoo Beach, at the very least. The docket is equally chock-full of lectures, films, exhibitions, and DJ sets, so check the website for the full details.
It is with equal parts trepidation and excitement that we once again look towards the impending darkness of Berlin Atonal. It’s like the looming dark cloud in the distance, heralding summer’s drawing to a close. At the time of this printing, we have but one offering of artist announcements, but with it are enough heavy-hitters to already guarantee our attendance. Among them: the queen of Cascadian drear, Liz Harris (aka Grouper aka my soulmate)’s new project, Nivhek; Tunes of Negation, an experimental trance project comprised of Berlin resident, Shackleton, and his rotating cast of musicians; and no stranger to the Atonal stage, Alessandro Cortini will be returning with the world premiere of his latest project, Volume Massimo. It has taken us three years of recommending this event to finally learn that it’s nearly impossible to predict which performances are worth your attention. We’re consistently and pleasantly surprised by artists we had previously been ignorant of, while sometimes comically disappointed by the exercises of ego from the household names. This of course comes with the territory of an experimental festival and is what ensures our attendance of all five days every damn year.
The Necronomicon has been read aloud, the tomb has once again been unsealed. Purveyors of evil and darkness the world over have been called to a gather in the subterranean* chambers of Zukunft am Ostkreuz. Whether you’re into death, doom or deathdoom, the last weekend of August is laid out for you. With bands from Europe, the US, Israel and Australia, this year sees Morbid Catacombs fest stretching its claws further than ever before. With such a wide variety of countries representing, we reckon every band is worth checking out, but we’re particularly disgusted to see Galvanizer, the fast n’ heavy death-shredders from Finland, and the epic doomscapes of Tchornobog on the lineup. Don’t forget your earplugs.
*event is actually above ground
‘Bummed out’ by the present? Not so ‘jazzed’ about the future? Well listen up, hush pup, for one weekend this September you can leave your millennial woes in 2019 and let Berlin Beat Invasion time-warp you back to the care-free, swingin’ sixties*. Picking up where the now-retired Beat Explosion festival left off, this weekender is running for the first time this year and promises to provide the best in Beat, Psyche and Garage from around Europe. After an opening party on September 5th, the main event will take place in Marie-Antoinette – one of Berlin’s lesser-known and totally underrated venues. Tucked away under the Sbahn archways, just a stone’s throw from Jannowitzbrucke, it’s got a great vibe and idyllic view of the Spree. The perfect place to “freak out” to the psychedelic sounds of Normandy’s Les Synapses or Spain’s Los Malinches. It’s bound to be a groovy time.
*An alternate 60s where everything in Berlin was totally fine.
Do you want to to experience all the glitz of a summer fest but only have one day to spare? Then get yer booty down to Mitte and waltz through the epic pillars of Volksbühne (roughly translates to “People’s Bühne”) for the 9th edition of TSF. The lineup curation is a bit all over the map, with London-based soulful hip hop from Shunaji, sassy glam garage from local sweeties, Jealous, and the cinematic kraut-space jams of Swoosh. As if this all isn’t enough incentive, we highly recommend the Indie Label Market so you can personally meet and support the countless unsung heroes responsible for this city’s vibrant music scene.
Trying to wrap your head around metal sub-genres can be exhausting. Rather than limit to any one in particular, BSF decided to include all of them in this year’s lineup. If you still haven’t had your fill of Death Metal from Morbid Catacombs, Canada’s Tomb Mold will be doing their first ever German show. Still riding the success of 2018’s Manor of Infinite Forms, and with a new album due in July, they are set to put on a killer show. Also representing team death is Of Feather and Bone, whose crushing punk-influenced sound has devastated venues across the Americas. Probably the most extreme band on the lineup is Germany’s own Sanitys Dawn – a goregrind outfit catering for those who like their beats blasted and their squeals piggy. If you prefer something slower and generally more high, Cannabineros, Alligator Rodeo, and Iron Walrus* will be testing out the lower frequencies with some classic stoner Doom. For something a bit different, Dÿse, a guitar/drums duo from Germany, will be providing a break from the metal to provide some math noise rock. On top of all the music, there will also be a cinema, art sale, record shops and “delicious” food. All boxes ticked.
*This band actually wears cute lil’ walrus masks on stage