Thursday, December 11, 2008

Music Review - Berlin City Focus


In 1999 label founders Stefan Betke and Barbara Preisinger created ~scape: a fertile breeding ground for self-contained, self-confident music. With a healthy mix of spontaneous enthusiasm, precision and continuity ~scape endeavours to offer its artists more natural scope for exciting projects and creative excursions. Drawing on their collective experiences as DJs, musician, remixer, mastering engineer, producer, promoter, studio owner and publisher they handpick their artists, bypassing clones of their current label sound in favour of those who create consistent, distinctive and, of course, simply great music.

From techno and dub to electronica to hip-hop, dubstep and beyond. Since its inception ~scape has remained on the move while staying true to its roots during the founders' eagle-eyed, loving search for those special talents and unique, fleeting moments between a wide range of musical markers. The swung dash in front of the label´Ż┤s name provides free space for thought and experiment, styles and ideas.

>Thomas Morr

Pop is a sound. Pop is melodies. Pop is a feeling; a tiny, excellent, gigantic feeling. A feeling which at best lasts for a long time. In this special case it lasts for six years already. Six years sound storage mediums from Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg, Raumerstrasse. Actually the address is not that important. What is even more important are the sounds from music playing people from Weilheim, Munich and from Vienna, from Antwerp, Oakland, and increasingly also from Berlin. Sometimes melancholy autumn-music, sometimes sunrises. There is equally contemporary chamber music and, besides, gushing moments of pop. White noise, folk songs, abstract Hip Hop, electronic listening.

It is Thomas Morr who has found these sounds. He has picked them up and keeps bringing them again and again to listeners in all corners of the world. These sounds are published by his label Morr Music that gradually has become the label of reference for "Electronica". It has been with the Powerbook becoming the new guitar and the guitar becoming the new Powerbook. When the sound reclaimed the song and electronic music made its way from the hard disc into the band context. What came of this process are marvellous half digital songwriter albums such as Lali Puna's "Scary World Theory" from 2001 or Masha Qrella's "Unsolved Remained", as well as the Tied & Tickled Trio's boundless jazz landscapes around the two Notwist brothers Markus und Micha Acher. Or Tarwater's cool, slightly dark reinterpretation of the 1980s, as on their record "the needle was travelling".

Morr Music started in 1999. Or rather: It continued. As Thomas Morr linked his label to different traditions of popular (and not that popular) music: He took up the narrative of the self-administrative do-it-yourself-story, a minor economy whose reserve currencies are friendship and enthusiasm. He further took up a very British narrative of a pop wonderland full of strong and emphatic feelings.

It is not without reason that a poster of Morrissey hangs above the jukebox in Morr's office: The label's first compilation from 2000 was called "Putting The Morr Back Into Morrissey". And the second, two years later, called "Blue Skied An' Clear" was a homage to the British shoegazers of Slowdive whose floating clear guitar pop has been something like a blueprint for lots of electronica artists. It is further this kind of indie socialization that most of the Morr artists share. Morr Music achieves a great deal of convincing by means of sounds. Morr Music releases affairs of the heart.

>Get Physical

The name says it all: Get Physical tracks could hardly be more moving and corporeal, brimming with new beats and sounds by up-and-coming talents. Thanks to this emphasis, it has taken Get Physical less than four years to become one of the fastest risers and strongest brands of the international club scene. The Berlin/Prenzlberg-based label is backed by a collective of six people, each of whom had a long-standing career in music before making their way from Frankfurt to the capital at the beginning of the new millennium: Booka Shade alias Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier, M.A.N.D.Y. alias Patrick Bodmer and Philipp Jung and Thomas Koch aka DJ T. Gradual changes, like allowing other styles to join the mix and opening the label up to become today's musical home for almost 20 artists from around the globe, go hand in hand with rising expectations, changed structures and new concepts.

The label's sound, too, continues to ramify and proliferate - it has become virtually impossible to squeeze their output into any style- or genre-related pigeonhole. Club compatibility is an absolute must, as is a penchant for the atmospheric and an emotional intensity which invariably hit the nerve of the boiling dancefloor. The crew of fifteen at Milastrasse 2 consider themselves a true artist collective. By taking their sound and vision to the outside world, all members of this family, above all the label's three in-house acts Booka Shade, M.A.N.D.Y. and DJ T., have contributed to the label's exceptional reputation. Ignore at your own peril!

>Takeshi Nishimoto

Guitarist Takeshi Nishimoto embraces and expresses music from the European, Northern Indian, and American jazz classical traditions. He has performed extensively as a solo artist, as well as in collaborations with musicians that range from the late sitar master Rahul Sakyaputra to electronic composer John Tejada. Born in Fukuoka, Japan, Takeshi came to the United States for one primary reason-to study guitar. As a student in the University of Southern California guitar program, Takeshi gained a firm foundation in the classical tradition from some of the world's premiere guitar players such as James Smith, Scott Tennant, Bill Kanengizer, and Brian Head.

In addition to European classical music, Nishimoto also explored jazz with Joe Diorio and David Oaks. Also, Takeshi had the jazz guitar legend Phil Upchurch as his mentor. In 2004, Nishimoto start playing the northern Indian classical instrument "Sarod" under the guidance of Pt. Rajeev Taranath. Beyond USC, Takeshi also received personal instruction from the legendary Pepe Romero, playing in four of his master classes. What these teachers, as well his audiences appreciate in Takeshi is his relentless pursuit of musical innovation. He is very open, and that openness extends to his playing. He sees no conflict between the new and the old, and that is part of what makes his music so compelling. He relocated to Berlin in 2005 and has called it home ever since working with local artists and labels.

>Persona Records

Persona Records originally began in Boston, Massachusetts in 2001 as an outlet for the music of Stewart Walker. The name "persona" was chosen to respond to the trend of artists working solely under pseudonyms thus obscuring the humanity involved in electronic music. At the time, electronic dance music was perceived by American audiences as merely the product of computer algorithms.

Words like "computer" and "digital" when used to describe music were epithets with a true meaning of inhuman, soul-less, and anonymous. Electronic music artists since Kraftwerk were happy to explore the artistic possibilities of the man-machine or avatar via their own artificial pseudonymous personalities.

But this denial of humanity prevented acceptance and understanding from those more comfortable with traditional bands or singer-songwriters of rock, folk, punk, etc.

Stewart realized around this time, after being locked in bedroom studios for most of the 1990's, that there is a purity of intent within electronic music. One artist typically creates the entire presentation from the concept of the music, to the graphic design, the label management, and so on. This stood out in stark contrast to the amount of effort required to produce and sell one folkie -- with teams of songwriters, producers, engineers and A+R reps involved in the creation of a pop single and career.

The development of music and artists electronic music world was simpler and more direct. More personal. Punk bands called it "DIY," Rock bands called it "indie," and other techno artists called it "the underground." Persona's first web communique called it new folk music, and the modern equivalent of a girl with a guitar busking in a subway station.

>Antye Greie

AGF alias Antye Greie is an east german singer and digital songwriter, producer, performer, e-poet, calligrapher, digital media artist. The start of her solo career was marked by the artistic exploration of digital technology. On her first solo album HEAD SLASH BAUCH (Orthlorng Musork 2001), she converted fragments of HTML scripts and software handbooks into a form of electronic poetry and deconstructed pop. The follow-up work, WESTERNIZATION COMPLETED, won an Award of Distinction at the 2004 Ars Electronica festival. Her collaboration with Sue Costabile involving live audio-visual improvisation resulted in the 2006 AGF.3 + SUE.C CD/DVD release called MINI MOVIES (on Asphodel). 2008 releases WORDS ARE MIssING and DANCE FLOOR DRACHEN (AGF Producktion) experiment with absence of poetry and repetitive statements on simple to complex rhythm.

Her poetry, which she converts into electronic music, pop songs, calligraphy and digital media, has been presented as live performances and sound installations in museums, auditoria, theatres, concert halls and clubs throughout Europe and in North America and Asia in festivals such as Ars Electronica Linz, Sonar Barcelona, Transmediale Berlin, GRM Festival Paris, Roskilde, Sync festival Athens, AudioVisiva Milan, Intern. Open Book Festival Moscow, Sonic Acts Amsterdam and staged solo performances in venues like Pompidue Paris, ICC Tokyo, Akademie der Kuenste Berlin, ICA London and many more.

>Tyree Cooper

It probably all began with the old R & B dusties of his mother, Tyree Cooper was impassionedly listening to. Growing up on the streets of Chicago's South Side Tyree Cooper discovered his love for the soul music of the 60ies. A first step was to join his Grammar school band at the age of 13 - playing the flute! His other passion at that time was playing basketball. Both passions followed him to the high school where he met Mike Dunn and learned how to DJ. Listening to Farley "Jackmaster Funk", " The Hot Mix 5", Ronny Hardy and the electrifying energies of Frankie Knuckles, Tyree was well schooled at an early age. Two years after college Tyree was already one of the most popular and highly sought-after DJs in Chicago. Then Vince Lawrence, of the garage funk band "Jesse Gang" (founded by Jesse Saunders) persuaded Tyree to put together a demo tape of his music to start a career as a recording artist. From now on it was only a question of time before signing the first record deal with the Chicago-based underground label D.J. International - that was in 1986.

The first 12" "I Fear The Night" (with female vocalist 'Chic') - promptly became an underground classic in Chicago. Other hits followed: "Acid Over"(1988), "Turn Up The Bass" (1988/89),"'Let's Get Hyped" (feat. Kool Rock Steady, 1989), "Let the Music Take Control"(1989) and "Hardcore Hip House" (1989). That was the time when Tyree Cooper created a crossover version of house music together with his friend and fellow DJ 'Fast Eddie' Smith and which was known as hip house. It then caused a furor on the hip hop scene, while today rap vocals are a common feature of the commercial house scene.

Tyree Cooper is now regarded as one of the most influential artists in the international house scene. Already looking back to a respectable discography Cooper founded his own label in 2002: Supa Dupa Recordings. Later one of the most important hip house tunes was released on Epic with the original and some new remix versions: "Turn Up The Bass", which is surely one of the most important hip house tracks of all times. Other remixing highlights and hits were undoubtedly Fast Edde "Yo! Yo! Get Funky", "It's Alright" from the Pet Shop Boys and the Mixmasters "In the Mix" which was featured in Madonna's Truth or Dare. True to the scene Tyree still maintains a base in Chicago but has recently spread his roots to setup home Berlin - doing what he does best.... spinning and traveling within Europe for gigs and producing new tracks on his own record label Supa Dupa Records.


A veteran producer spanning genres from techno to dub to grime Timeblind is a sonic technician that has continually been at the boundaries of electronic music. With releases spanning 15 years and labels such as Richie Hawtins Plus 8, Kid 606's Shockout Records and DJ Rupture's Soot Records.

As a DJ Timeblind has always blended dancehall, jungle, hip-hop and techno, so when UK Garage and later Grime started happening it was a natural style for him and he started spinning it at his NYC club night The Bunker.

With the classic dub-tronica joint The Rastabomba a liquid hip-hop groove gets grafted onto a mysterious (and still untraced) late-night radio transmission from "the beautiful village of 'arlem". Subject: the apocalypse, cycle change, how to survive it.

The full length CD Rugged Redemption Orthlorng Musork, 2001) slyly blurred genre boundaries and made it onto numerous top 10 lists for that year. In 2002 he played at the Sonar and Mutek festivals and did several tours of Europe.

From 1998 till 2004 he lived in New York, founding the Polar Bear Club (with Mike Wolf) and later The Bunker (with DJ Spinoza) club nights at Tonic. It was a sonic collision where things like Coltrane, Mego, Timbaland and Roll Deep got squished together on the turntables. UK Garage, disco, funk, arabic dance music, psychedelia to full-on breakcore. It became one of the hot spots of downtown NYC with guest DJs like Matmos and Anti-Pop Consortium. The Bunker continues today (after Timeblind split to Berlin) and is a regular venue for excellent New York parties: Dan Bell (DBX), Sammy Dee (Perlon) and Suburban Knight (UR). One of the hotspots of US techno.

While in New York Timeblind was also a regular player at DJ Olive and Toshio Kajiwara's Phonomena, exploring the outer limits of downtown improv with laptop, turntables or saxophone.

Timeblind currently lives in Berlin. He used to live in New York, but that got too stressy and the rents are just too high. Berlin is relaxed and cheap and therefore filled with musicians. He is currently working on a new EP and album for release on Laboratory Instinct.

Source - Samurai FM


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