Early 2013 saw the 14th edition of the CTM Festival: A week, jam packed of Music and Arts located in a variety of venues across Berlin celebrating Digital Culture.
Firstly, having unfortunately missed Matmos on the Monday evening, I spend Tuesday night at the Forever New Frontiers night at Berghain. Emptyset are first up. The Bristolians are dark and abrasive. Kicking the set off with the the track “Collapse” they frequently switch between harsh static noise, haunting reverberations and relentless kick drums. Just to hear the track “Function” in that setting was an experience in itself. Emptyset are fantastic on record but live they are epic. It’s probably worth pointing out what an incredibly crisp soundsystem they have in Berghain. The setting and the music are combined perfectly.
It’s Alva Noto and Byetone's turn next premiering their new project Diamond Version. Its hypnotic synth based and heavy noisy parts. Unfortunately, their set falls a bit flat following Emptyset, but the introduction of Atsuhiro Ito improvising with a noise generating fluorescent light tube rewired to create noise was something else.
Wednesday night is in the hands of Berlin based label PAN.
Days later I'm still in a state of shock from the madness of Mark Fell’s work. With an installation based set which features pulsating, off cue, analog kick drums, inflatable dancing men and eye watering, synchronized strobes. Together the music and the strange smiling inflatable men produce a confusing and brilliant art piece, something that will live long in the memory. After 40 minutes or so it stopped, giving me my eyes back, and a lot to digest.
Sporting some tasty looking, custom built modular synthesis and a lovely beard Keith Fullerton-Whitman takes to the Berghain stage next. Using 6.1 surround sound he produces an interesting piece of Musique Concrète, a scatty splattering of rhythms, bleeps and pops. Even though it was interesting being submerged in 6.1 it never really stays in one place long enough for me to appreciate fully.
Brum’s finest Lee Gamble plays next and is possibly the most danceable act on offer so far on the evening with a live interpretation of his new record “Diversions 1994-1996”, built up from 90’s jungle cassettes. It’s nice having a bit of a dance at the end of what turns out to be a heavy evening.
Thursday offers to bring together sound adventures and avant-garde pop music. Up first is Holly Herndon. It’s my first experience of seeing Herndon live having only heard her critically acclaimed record “Movement”. She performs alone, with only a laptop, processing her vocals and some sensory pads to add some more dynamics. It is well crafted, experimental, danceable and enjoyable to watch. Most spectacular for me was was the live building of the track “Fade”.
Multi-instrumentalist Matthew Barnes must be influenced by a variety of music when writing for Forest Swords. Performing on the evening as a two piece with hazy psych guitar, drones, reverberation and the occasional scatty samples. It is a nice crossover of electronic beats, live guitars and modern vocal chops making me look forward to the forthcoming full length. Unfortunately it is running a bit late for a Thursday and I head off before getting to see Kuedo.
For me, Berghain’s line up on the Friday of CTM is one of the most exciting and I wasn’t left disappointed.
Tim Exile performs next door at Kantine. His set contains complex knob twiddling on his crazy Reaktor set-up, which is hilarious, fun and highly enjoyable. His tracklist among many others includes “Don’t think that we’re one” and impromptu fan request that he builds into tracks included the likes of “Admiral Brown was an admirable man” and the knees up jungle-styled track “Fluffy Soufflé”.
As I move across to Berghain in the sleet, it's kicking off straight from the word go. The former power plant is shaking with the sounds of the Rave Undead II night. I was totally unprepared as a couple of glow sticks and a whistle wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Shed plays a mix of futuristic jungle and atmospheric techno in a seamless two hour set much to the crowd’s appreciation, with everyone in high party spirits and really giving it some. The feelgood vibes were abruptly brought to a halt with the introduction of EVOL. With it being 4 in the morning, the whirring and warped computer game sounds would have perhaps suited a different slot earlier in the week, as by this time I couldn’t appreciate/cope with it (perhaps that was the point) and headed to the bar.
Meanwhile, Shackleton are upstairs in Panorama Bar and blasting heavily psychedelic arpeggiated sounds, syncing in and out of each other tunes, which is rhythmically enjoyable on their own without having to drop a beat. Dazzling.
Heading back downstairs and it's Andy Stott working the crowd giving an injection of stamina when things get hazy way into the early hours. Who said that rave was dead. That was truly amazing.
By the time Saturday rolls round after a week of hanging out in Berghain, it’s quite nice to have a change of scenery, and there's nothing quite like one of my other favorite clubbing venues, the decommissioned swimming pool that is Stattbad Wedding.
First up in the pool are the sounds of Skream. The man from Croydon played a really nice selection of house, bass music, and some old school disco. Tracks such as “Move Your body” by Marshall Jefferson, “(You're Puttin') A Rush on Me” by Stephanie Mills, and New Order’s classic “Blue Monday”. He still had time for a couple of tracks of his own such as “Filth” and his recent giveaway “Kreepin”. I think Skream has become a great all round DJ, playing some fantastic party music, which i'm sure had moments for everyone.
Anika(Dj) was up next was a collection of strange set of oddities and rare 7” covering anything she fancied from electronica to reggae which was actually a little unusual for the time she was playing at.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get anywhere near Hip-hop queen Mykki Blanco without being crushed, who is playing the smaller boiler room, so I return to the swimming pool where UK's Simian Mobile Disco are up next. I’ve never really listened to them on record, but it’s really fun house music. Their set-up is mighty as they both command the stage and seam to really enjoy themselves with a nice light show complimenting the music.
Sunday is a bit of a struggle to be honest, but I just about get things together and see the wonderful Sunn O))) at Astra. A smoke filled room and more Marshall Stacks than you can you can shake a stick at, Sunn O))) take to the stage amongst the fog creating, skin tingling drones that shake you to your very core. A nice way to see the end of the festival and the start to a new week.
So many things about CTM make it a great festival. The theme, the handpicked selection of artists, the venues, and the preparation and organisation. It's a great showcase for arts and it all amounts to creating something very special. Looking forward, I'm hoping I can attend next year's edition.