Dance music and I go way back. In England I listened to a lot of Punk and New Wave, and for a couple of years I got lost in the whole Jam Band thing in the US, but the garage ethos co-joined with the psychedelic side when I returned to Berlin and discovered the Techno scene. While most kids were still trying to figure out college, I actually started D’Vision Records, a dance label in Berlin in the early 1990s – an outrageous time in a crazy city. Case-study alert: being 22 years old, I made every business mistake I could, but as my father pointed out: it was better money spent than any business school tuition, and I got my investment back.
I absolutely love dance music, but it requires a certain amount of research, and some good guidance, to find exactly what you want. In Berlin, we are incredibly proud of our Techno, House, and Trance roots, but it’s always been very “underground” to a fault. It seems as though the entire scene expends a huge effort ensuring no one can join the fun. Admittedly, we fumbled it once before. What started as “our” movement, the first real German thing that wasn’t somehow trying to be American or English ended up growing really huge really fast. The Love Parade (as the most obvious symptom) grew from a few hundred dancers, to a really fun crowd of 40,000 ravers, to 1.5 million drunken hooligans before collapsing under a garbage heap of beer bottles and plastic rave wigs. Worse, no one in Berlin figured out how to earn any real money off it, while people from everywhere else made a killing. I guess the scene is intent on avoiding a version 2.0.
I recommend Tobias Rapp’s “Lost and Sound”, a book that nicely chronicles the current club scene in Berlin – a perfect storm of cool, available spaces, a ton of creative types focused on variations of House music, and the EasyJet-Set, which rolls in and out of Berlin every weekend for the kind of full-on fun that makes any experienced Hedonist blush with envy. The sound coming out of Berlin over the last three years has been dubbed Minimal, and for good reason. As the name implies, it’s pretty straight-forward, actually more focused on the after-hour set with reduced bass, and none of that hands-in-the-air rave favored by American aficionados of Trance House. Minimal is somewhat hypnotic, with its sparse loops and nuanced variations, and it’s easy to see how it plays gently in the background of a river-side concrete café in Berlin on a Sunday as people are slowly coming down from (and gearing up for another) long night.
If you want a taste, download three recent samplers that give you a TON of music for eight bucks each, including two hour-long mixes per compilation. Check out Sound of Berlin Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3…
…or just check out Rodriguez Jr.’s track Kids of Hula by clicking below:
Record stores in Berlin have always been difficult. There are few left that have any expertise, and the really important ones don’t want to sell you anything, unless you’re part of the in-crowd. It certainly isn’t a friendly place to go and learn about what’s new and interesting. The big music retailers have left the playing field, and Amazon is great if you know what you want, but their recommendation system is too wide to help with the endless nuanced sub-genres. So where do I go for help? Beatport.com, an online retailer that focuses on dance music, and is a treasure trove of well sorted music. Most DJs nowadays just download music and play it back via digital devices. Check out what Pioneer just brought to market to see what I mean!
Beatport also has great articles. One that really caught my attention recently was called 2009: The Year of Disco? It was a well-researched and cross-linked article about the Nu-Disco scene. Karen had made it pretty clear that she had hit the wall on Minimal House, and needed something more organic. Hand-claps and cow-bell to the rescue, baby! I strongly recommend the Horse Meat Disco compilation, as well as the Selected Works from Permanent Vacation. But what really blew me away was the three tracks from Tensnake’s recent EP called I Want You to Cry. Like any good dance number, it builds slowly, and it takes more than one track to close the deal.
Tensnake, In the End (I Want You To Cry)
…and of course, I have a vested interested in the scene, as I suddenly find myself back in the music business. Together with my old business partner Chris Zippel, here is one of the current releases, a Nu Disco compilation capturing the mood of my restaurant in Amsterdam. Get yourself a copy of the Park Hotel presents Momo CD, available now via Amazon and Beatport.
… and we even snuck in a Minimal track 😉 Hey, gotta wave that Berlin flag!