Most concerts have long been cancelled or slated for 2021, but while the majority of us were busy perfecting our sourdoughs during lockdown, musicians were holed up in the studio. With that in mind, October is the perfect month to check out new music from Berlin’s best and brightest.
Since the nightclubs have been closed the longest, it makes sense to start with techno. On Schwefelgelb’s newest, there isn’t a hint of the summer sun we’ve just left behind but rather a stark reminder of the cold hard winter to come. This one is angst immortalised, and if you ever got the feeling that Berliners were pining for their dance floors, then this release ought to give you a good indication of the last seven months’ pent-up energy. Der Puls durch die Schläfen (n-PLEX, out Oct 9) – loosely anglicised as “The Throb Through The Temples” – does exactly what it says on the tin.
Swap gurn for gloom (and a heavy-handed dollop of distorted doom) and prepare wholeheartedly for the latest instalment in the twisted mystique of Larissa Iceglass and William Maybelline: Lebanon Hanover. The Berlin-based pair are undoubtedly among the world’s foremost practitioners of darkwave, a genre that seems as well suited to current affairs as you’re ever likely to find. However, there is a certain romance in Lebanon Hanover’s gothic drudgery if you’re willing to look for it. Their newest album Sci-Fi Sky (Fabrika, out Oct 20) divines at Wordsworth, the aesthetics of Art Nouveau, British seasides and Berlin’s hard concrete urbanism in this alienated age.
Those precious few of us yet cheering for the light at the end of the tunnel will find their optimism rewarded at Kesselhaus on a weekend of excellent gigs. First up is Jaakko Eino Kalevi, with support from Bad Hammer. Anyone who has poked their head into the thriving Neukölln DIY scene will likely have heard of both acts. Heavily touted by Berlin tastemakers Shameless/Limitless, Kalevi is a Finnish musician deserving of much, much more recognition. His brand of soft electronica is flush with the kind of pastel melancholia that invites you to sink right into the wax. At the same time, Bad Hammer are fast becoming a staple of the Neukölln underground. Their new single “Mystified” is self-classified as shadow pop, though soft rock would fit just as snugly.
Next, Berlin-based quartet Sultans Court are pulling through with a double-whammy: A live show accompanies the group’s new double EP From Afar / Up Close on October 10 (Filter). The alternative indie outfit has an energetic, driving sound, accented by the kind of playful lightness you would expect from the bill-toppers at a summer festival. It is danceable, poppy in places and well-refined in others. The lead single “Running” evokes a far-away place in which those kinds of moods may still prevail.
Closing out the month on a very welcome soft note, Wedding’s own Stella Sommer (also of Die Heiterkeit) releases her new album Northern Dancer on her own label (Oct 30). The singer-songwriter makes the shift from German to English on the record, but other than that, all of her trademarks remain firmly in place. Sommer makes pop music in name, but that would be doing a disservice to the raw emotionality of her work and her inimitable voice capable of yearning and asserting in the same breath. And both of the two lead singles from the upcoming album, “A Lover Alone” and “The Eyes of the Singer”, find Sommer at her best.