Artists to look out for
The techno-rapping, ski goggle-wearing, beer-swilling Wilmersdorf-native is hard to miss. The take on this Berlin white boy’s hip-hop is robust rather than introspective, as shown by tracks such as ‘Party Sahne’, ‘Acid Kotti’, and ‘besoffen in den spiegel schauen’, all taken from his 2022 debut album war film gewesen. Mixing club music with hip-hop and rap, the Wilmersdorf Wunderkind recently sold out his end-of-year show at Astra, with an even-bigger European Wahlkampftour tour lined up for 2023. There will be no escaping the frat-pop sounds of West Berlin’s notorious party fiend.
Take Berlin’s most prolific musicians, merge two classic musical genres and throw together some of the most energetic rhythms imaginable, and you get? The quasi-contemporary supergroup Kara Delik. Consisting of Istanbul Ghetto Club’s Baris Öner, former hardcore hitman Andi Sommer from Henry Fonda and Afterlife Kids, and Berlin’s go-to drummer Eilis Frawley, the rag-tag band have hit a winning formula that combines 1970s Anatolian rock and Turkish-psych with the noisy intensity of the German Krautrock and Deutsche Welle scenes. Featuring distorted Saz riffs, pulsating bass lines and driving drums, the trio released their debut Tamam in early 2022. With a new 7” record out in early February and a European tour in the making, things are only going to get bigger.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in Berlin’s Rock Kneipen or squat venues, then you’ll have ingested the raucous sounds of punk duo CAVA. Comprised of Peppi and Mela on guitars and drums, the riot-grrrl act has been tearing up underground venues with high-energy garage rock sounds since 2022. A 12-song debut album Damage Control hits shelves in March followed by a release tour. This could be CAVA’s year.
As one half of indie pop duo Nosoyo, Berlin-based singer-songwriter Donata Kramarz has plunged into the world of alt-folk pop, writing and producing her own solo material. No folklore throwbacks here, however, as this contemporary singer knows how to blend modern styles with sublime and sultry songwriting that’s much more than pop music. With a slew of singles released to date, and a bunch of support shows completed with UK songsmith Josh Savage and German singer Catt, Donata’s sails are billowing. With her debut LP Imaginary Land penned for a spring release on Humming Records (see Ätna, Lie Ning), there will be a whole lot more to love about Berlin’s poignant and stirring vocal star.
The Berlin-based Afro-Soul group Jembaa Groove formed by Yannick Nolting and Eric Owusu is currently on a roll, having picked up the Listen to Berlin Jury prize in late 2022 following the release of their debut record Susuma, a smooth blend of traditional West African Highlife and contemporary US R&B and soul music. Assembling a seven-piece band, Nolting and Owusu created a live project, filled with Ghanaian grooves and an energy that has been missing in the Berlin scene for quite some time. With an electric, diverse and rich sound, woven together by Eric Owusu’s smooth, standout vocals, Jembaa Groove’s soul, passion and swing can be experienced live throughout the new year as they bring their sound and energy to stages across Europe and the US.
Albums to get your hands on
Vulkano: Romano (Nonstop Pop Records)
POP: The King of Köpenick is back! While away, the ever-discernible East Berliner has been answering the call of the wild, venturing into new pastures and crafting an innovative, modern pop sound. The striking figure, with his renowned Viking-like pigtails and well-lived complexion, leaves behind some of the rap swagger that earned him so much credit on previous records. On album opener ‘Schrei der Wildnis’, Romano swaps the Plattenbauten for the outdoors, singing about the wolves and the eagles, with a pan flute playing in the background. Flutes appear quite often throughout the record – maybe signalling Romano’s embrace of his more intimate side. With his metal, drum, bass and rap origins, maybe he feels he’s earned it?
All Above: Grand River (Editions Mego)
ELECTRONIC: The most touching pieces of music are often dedicated to those we’ve lost. Such is the case with the latest album from Berlin-based, Dutch-Italian producer Aimée Portioli aka Grand River, All Above. The stirring, cinematic body of music is an homage to avant-garde pioneer Peter Rehberg, who founded the Editions Mego label, home to many forward-thinking and contemporary creative pieces of work.
The swirling, experimental and sublimely produced record flaunts Portioli’s well-honed talents, merging finely composed melodies with bouts of wondrous sound design and acoustic instrumentation. It’s Portioli’s third album in as many years, and with each release her sound swells and deepens, crafting fantastical, melancholic sonic portraits. With its vocals, guitars, pianos and more – All Above is a eulogy to variety and eloquence. As it plays out and waves wash over the music, Portioli’s talent in redefining sound design is manifested. Were he still alive, Rehberg would surely be moved.
Panta Rhei: Niklas Paschburg (7KMusic)
NEOCLASSICAL: It was after long periods of introspection spent pondering the impermanence of life and the universe that the Greek sage Heraclitus coined the term panta rhei (everything flows). Prompted by this motto, Niklas Paschburg’s third album jazzes up his classical flux by adding oomph and dynamism. Released on the Berlin label 7kMusic, a hub for the more ambient and modern-styled classical musicians, this is a buoyant offering filled with multi-instrumentation and strong vocal collaborations. The latter, in particular those featuring Bianca Steck and Fufanu Kaktus Einarsso, are the album’s particular strength.
While previous records sound like soundtracks to forlorn landscapes, this latest work buzzes with warmth, charisma and conviction as synthesizers, accordions and strings as well as classical piano sounds ebb and flow into one another throughout the 13 tracks. Like a blast of fresh air, Panta Rhei breathes colour and style into a convoluted neoclassic scene. Perhaps Berlin’s energy is rubbing off onto the young prodigy? Whatever the case, the enthusiasm is clearly not a product of winter blues. In a bleak environment, Paschburg has served up something that is quite jubilant to help soundtrack our ever-changing and depressing world.
Wirtschaft Arbeit Technik: Jolle (Crazysane Records)
ROCK: Beneath Potsdam’s glossy facade, the garage-rock duo Jolle turn back the clocks with their old-school ode to doing-it-yourself. More Black Keys than White Stripes, Wirtschaft Arbeit Technik shows that the fuzz rockers are capable of something melodic and fun, yet also raw and visceral. With lyrics in both English and German, Wirtschaft Arbeit Technik was inspired by the former GDR high school subject ‘Introduction to Socialist Production’.
Throughout the home-recorded LP – which oozes tape fuzz – Jolle blast the faults of late-stage capitalism with tracks such as ‘Digital Bullshit World’, ‘Wirtschaft Arbeit Tod’, and ‘Du bist Staub’. The record’s blues-rock sounds are often distorted and warped, borrowing from classic Krautrock aesthetics. While immediate comparisons can be made to the likes of King Gizzard and the OSEEs, Jolle remain very much in their own world – which just happens to be their basement in Potsdam.