Music is not just made alone in sound-sealed rooms; it’s also that wasted time with friends that feeds us. So here in a compilation from a self-described “avant-garde cocktail parlour” comes a musical picture of people missing a place to share.
For so much of this planet, the past year has proven a lot of the “non-essential” activities turn out to matter a lot. The word “scene” gets tossed about in the music media enough to be basically meaningless. So let’s forget coherent scenes, cool kids, cash to spare – bars are also places to scrounge your last few bucks for a fancy cocktail, places we work to make ends meet (behind the decks or the bar), and haunts for misfits.
And yeah, it’s not just our friends have been out of work as DJs. Our friends are out of work as bartenders and coat check staff and cleaners. For many with even one foot in nightlife, pandemic restrictions on who you can meet from “outside your household” seemed almost cruel – dirty and chaotic as nightlife venues are, they are the household where you see people you know.
So Dream Baby Dream is just one of the many venues that have been trying to make it work in the meanwhile under wildly diverging conditions – some places lucky with governments, some not at all, but almost everyone has been trying to sell t-shirts or mugs or anything.
I was glad to participate back to Dream Baby Dream Volume One myself as this is a place where weirdo Berlin music artists cross paths – if nothing else, to play a night of music in a town with an overwhelming number of DJs relative to venues.
DBD is a cozy haunt in the Winsviertel neighborhood of the city, close enough with music types that it routinely names its cocktails after artist regulars. It’s everything that didn’t work in pandemics – small spaces, squeezing next to people, sharing some thick air. And talk about household – the back room is even decorated like a dusty living room. Somehow that feeling threads its way through the VA – crowded nights of debauchery, serendipitous meetings.
And there’s a nostalgic sense of the music influences artists share, from post-punk, industrial, EBM … a departure from just the straight-ahead techno flavor-of-the-month and Berlin-music-as-meme. Detroit legend Alan Oldham (DJ T-1000) even takes on the name Front 313. (you get it…)
Everyone sure bought their a-game – dare I say even a little competitiveness – for this volunteer VA. It’s sort of a banger rally, with the usual modern-Berlin-and-friends expat hallmarks of darkness, obsessive production detail, lots of history, very much more darkness.
PHASE FATALE and UNHUMAN, who waited out the pandemic in Tbilisi Georgia, start the collection with a brutally aggressive, cheeky “Fünf Euro Bitte” – but then Phase Fatale was known for bringing these vibes to his regular Berghain appearances, too. The pair-up is beautiful.
It kind of never lets up from there, but some highlights for my own taste (taste being what it will be):
HALV DRØM aka Saxon Jorgensen has such spot-on aesthetics you’ll swear you heard “Ornias” in the 80s, but you didn’t. It comes across not so much as retro pastiche as loving recreation.
PATRICK DSP delivers full-force athleticism on “Total Control,” expert-mixed physical conditioning. He’s an underrated talent, an expert engineer with a real sense of kinetic musical energy in his productions.
MÆDON is a total up-and-comer of top-notch, grimy goth machine destruction, and her remix of SARIN is just a perfect, instant hit. Plus the bloody sonic “pain is your friend” joy that is “Blood Is Beauty.” Okay, that sounds depressively self-indulgent, but it’s inventive and frisky – goth trickster. Don’t miss her DJ sets, either, which help define this room.
OPERANT (Luna Vassarotti / August Skipper) deliver perhaps the most virtuosic outing on the VA, an unhinged cinematic apocalypse from these two label bosses quite unlike what you’d normally hear.
CLARISSA is lovable for just confidently violent dancefloor agony in “Abhorred” – but yeah, of course Berlin has a bar where you can just put this on as loud as possible while people sip cocktails or beers. You know – chillout times.
LIINEAS (aka Eve Shwarz) has an utterly beautiful metallic percussion part I’m also kind of addicted to. The whole track is eerie, chilling, and moving.
3.14 FEATURING IN ATLAS paints a richly textured neo-futuristic image, an elegant slow-burn amidst all the rest of us banging.
That is The Horrorist, the infamous provocateur, closing out the release in the wonderfully demonic way only he can. I won’t spoil the ending, though.
Oh yes, and side note – my cut is in there, too, with a nod to Roland, plug-in heaven, and some very particular vocal routing chain for cyborg action.
But a special callout to FRONT 313. The track is “Isolate,” but if you were looking for something to absolutely bang when you’re back at a safe and vaccinated public event – this one is a good shortlist candidate. There’s enough idolizing of Detroit and the past – Alan steps away from that by making a cut that is instantly memorable, now. It’s got the EBM sounds and machine feeling, but that groove that puts your ass in motion, and devilish hooks.
I feel the same way about this compilation as I do a lot of the ones I’ve talked about from around the world lately. You can hear producers writing love letters to one another, even in isolation. So here’s always valuing those moments we get to spend together – I’ll drink to that.
But please, if you can’t join us in person, have a virtual drink with us.
To give you more of a sense of this map, here are some related DJ sets lately from this crew:
MÆDON is absolutely one to watch, and her live set is jaw-dropping:
Phase Fatale spoke last spring about his approach to track production:
And yeah, here he is with brother-from-another-mother Unhuman in a nice B2B from Tbilisi (where they’re working closely with the club KHIDI – that’s a soft ‘k’ since I mucked up the pronunciation recently, problem with being a writer):
And they’re each a force on their own, but it’s also fun watching Operant as power couple B2B, too, here for Ireen Amnes’ Under My Feet (in exile on streams already last March):
Lastly, Mr. Alan Oldham has been keeping very busy, and I’m glad to know that will be back in real life and not only the Internet soon:
It’s also well worth visiting the discussion Alan had with Lenny Posso and Waynette to talk about whitewashing in music, from last summer. And I am frankly relieved that one thing that has come out of this year is that, hopefully, Berlin is no longer avoiding this topic. Berlin is Black, too, among other things, and it’s long past time to acknowledge both ex-pat and German native Blackness. (Not to just drop that at the end of this story, but – as a regular reminder!)
Now get yourself your favorite drink (alc or no), and yeah, glad we can welcome you to our home for a bit – along with media outlets The Brvtalist, post-punk, KEYI Magazine and Renee Ruin and labels including Sonic Groove, Instruments of Discipline, BITE, Liber Null, X-IMG, aufnahme + wiedergabe, Braid Records, Antibody, and PI Electronics.
DREAM BABY DREAM VOLUME I – Premiere + Q&A [The Brvtalist]
Just reopened with limited hours and rules regarding certification of negative test result or full vaccination.