Berlin’s music scene will always have an enduring connection with the 1990s. While the post-unification techno connection is repeated almost ad-nauseum, there is a new 1990s revival going on right now that is absolutely worth mentioning.
Shoegaze, that dreamy, jangly and ethereal sound perhaps most famous for the Cocteau Twins’ indecipherable lyricism, is back in Berlin. This time, women are leading the charge. Aside from a host of albums coming out in autumn from artists like Albertine Sarges and Gurr’s Laura Lee, there are plenty of great live shows to get stuck into.
Jaguwar, a band that has been on the Berlin scene for years, is leading the charge for shoegaze with excellence. When they released their first record back in 2015, their sound was deeply indebted to icons of the genre like My Bloody Valentine. Now, after six years as de facto leaders of the scene, Jaguwar’s sound feels more like their own, having soaked up new trends even as they were setting them. While it’s hard to say precisely which social permutations are behind the genre’s current uptick in popularity, it could have something to do with the obscure desires and relatable search for fulfilment we all face while living in the city. In shoegaze, the vocal lines are set back, behind the instrumentation. Yet despite clouding the words, we never fail to understand the emotions that inspire the songs.
That dreamy, jangly and ethereal sound perhaps most famous for the Cocteau Twins’ indecipherable lyricism is back in Berlin.
On their upcoming album Gold, Jaguwar have never been clearer about their intentions. A self-proclaimed call for justice, Gold leans into heftier themes than ever, even while maintaining a bright, sometimes poppy tone. Smashing capitalism has rarely sounded so infectious. With songs that set out their stalls early, Jaguwar’s new work has a more mainstream tint to it, and it’s very much a case of what you see is what you get. Yet, Jaguwar has never been a band to mince its meanings, and it’s easy to see how the increase in tempo will play out Alexanderplatz on a live stage. Zukunft am Ostkreuz will host the final leg of their German tour. For the homecoming gig, this buzzy little performance space, which favours authenticity ahead of comfort, seems like the ideal venue.
Alternatively, Swiss band Annie Taylor (pictured) – named for the woman who, on her 63rd birthday, kicked off the trend for going over Niagara Falls in a barrel – offer a more psychedelic take on the genre. Annie Taylor are on an inverse musical trajectory to Jaguwar, eschewing earlier pop inflections for a grungier, distortion-heavy colour. It suits them well. Singer Gini Jungi cuts a more detached figure, having presumably absorbed plenty of lockdown angst. In accepting that energy and translating it into their art, Annie Taylor have found a new level and depth to their music, one that’s empowering rather than maudlin, even on the slower, more melancholic tracks.
While no doubt well-known in their home town of Zurich, Annie Taylor are more of an unknown quantity in Berlin, so their introduction to this city is long overdue. Their debut album, Sweet Mortality, came out in early 2020 to plenty of praise, and many have been waiting to see them live ever since. It’s testament to the quality of their music that they will perform in Kantine am Berghain, a venue that, while definitely trendy, continuously books excellent acts. And having more than held their own as a support band on a recent tour with the brilliant L.A. Witch, the chance to see Annie Taylor on stage should not be passed up.