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Berghain, by the numbers: data on the relentless Berlin techno club

In the era of fake news and big data for corporations, there’s an obvious antidote: getting actual data for yourself. So, it’s a given that too many words have been spilt over Berlin’s Berghain. But in trying to portray the club’s hype or mystique, I notice that there’s not often much discussion of its consistency. And to understand how techno and in a broader sense electronic music and the various fashions about it are projected into the world, understanding that consistency is key. If a club is repeatedly pushing out long queues every Saturday and Sunday night (yes, Sunday), and …

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Summertime means less synth, more Synth Bike

Electronic musician – mad scientist – inventor LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER is taking his synth bike on tour, finally answering the question “how can I have more synth, but get exercise and a tan?” And for all of you stuck in a windowless basement studio, that means he can do his jam in places like the landmark Tempelhofer Feld airport in Berlin. It’s busking, with wheels. Synth shop Schneidersladen is another obvious destination: And the invention itself is just mental – a bunch of electronics strapped to a bike, with the advantage of mobile sound and even backpack recording, now …

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Sonic Robots' Glitch Robot.

Here’s how Mouse on Mars are using robots to expand their band

Analog and digital? That’s just a small slice of the pie. The post-digital / post-analog world uses those two ingredients but adds others, like biological, photochemical, optical, and perhaps most importantly, kinetic. Instead of electrifying screens and circuits, then, you can also make stuff move. Mouse on Mars, in collaboration with the Sonic Robots project of Moritz Simon Geist, are making just such a collective – human meets robot. And it makes some sense not just in technological terms, but aesthetic ones. The German collaborative get as playful with robotic use of objects and percussion as they do in their …

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Watch this crew go transhuman in the absorption chamber

“Well, it’s not really anything new” (or some variant) is a phrase heard at music and media shows perhaps as often as “I’m going for a smoke” or “where’s the toilet?” But this raises a question. Forget for a second what an audience thinks is new – sound or look or technology or whatever. What would get you to do something different? What would get you out of your comfort zone? What would get you to push yourself – even just a few steps? That’s been the idea behind all the collaborative labs I’ve gotten to organize, but for last …

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Inside Skinnerbox’s live sets, including a song they play backwards

“xobrenniks era ew olleh.” Skinnerbox, the duo of Olaf Hilgenfeld and Iftah Gabbai, are now so comfortable in their roles of playing live that they’re playing backwards to spice things up. (It seems there was some effort involved here – like, learning a song backwards in order that they had composed it the way they desired when reversed. I just find it oddly enchanting watching things defy gravity and roll across cymbals.) Playing with other people can feel like a mind meld. There’s a special discipline to working things out alone, to be sure. But it’s when you play with …

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Robert Henke, finding beauty in ever-iterating work with lasers

Robert Henke in his post-Ableton life has continued to see his stock rise on the media art scene. But in some ways, that’s a funny thing. You’ll very often see Robert in one of two guises – as club act, or large-scale AV event. Yet the very thing that makes his style so distinctive is somehow the opposite of what you normally expect from those arenas. Robert’s approach is meticulous, detail-oriented, compulsive. In some sense, I think that’s what makes it scale. Rather than crank the volume, push emotions, and embrace spectacle (in the AV/concert) and the visceral (in the …

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With Autist and Rainbow Arabia, pop retro futurism meets the club

Electronic music’s popular future is unquestionably tied up with techno nightclubs – for better and for worse. And that’s perhaps no more true than in Berlin, birthplace of Traktor and Ableton Live, in this nation that birthed major DAWs and modular revivals, then became a beacon for the use of said tools to make dance music. So the question is, where do we go from here? Are clubs about producing effective repetition (literally), or are they also some kind of laboratory for new hybrids of styles? I’m involved in a second time in a Thursday night experiment of sorts at …

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This music video generates landscapes from a wild alien duo’s music

If you haven’t seen it already, Meier & Erdmann absolutely nailed it with their video for the tune “Howler Monkey.” First, it doesn’t hurt that this is a crisp, funky, uncluttered earworm gem. Second, the video is dazzling. Here’s the thing: there’s absolutely no reason why sound visualization needs to be so boring and familiar. There’s a lot to learn here. Even just change the colors goes a long way. Here, the familiar spectral view over time is carefully tuned to form fantastical landscapes, the camera panning around lazily. I keep re-watching the video partly because so much was carefully …

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Go gear crazy with the best synth gear unveiled at Superbooth

In just its second edition, Schneidersladen has turned the Superbooth into the world’s coolest synth gathering and most focused electronic music gear get-together. The Berlin-based event attracted a who’s who of international music gear makers, from modular to desktop, tiny to huge. So that led to the inevitable question: “what have you seen? What’s cool?” Sometimes you got to that topic before, like, “hello, how are you?” Well, while there was a litany of great new stuff, particularly (unsurprisingly) in the modular sphere, here are the prototypes and gear launches that I think represent the best of the best. We’ll …

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The nerdiest synth meet in the world, plus Tangerine Dream on a boat

Even in the age of the Internet, there’s no substitute for seeing people face to face. It just seems now we want a more concentrated dose – one or two really big international gatherings where we go all-in. And apart from California’s mighty NAMM show, it seems there’s nothing quite like Superbooth. Here’s a preview, some highlights from last year – and don’t worry, if you can’t make it to Berlin, there will be a continuous livestream to the world and coverage we’ll deliver from the various partners covering the event. With just one past edition under its belt, Superbooth …

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