Ellen Allien’s Guide to Berlin’s Music Scene

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A born and raised Berliner, Ellen Allien first made a name for herself DJing in Berlin’s wild, burgeoning techno scene of the early ’90s. At the end of the decade, she founded Bpitch Control, an electronic music label that launched the careers of production outfits like Modeselektor and Apparat. Since releasing her own debut album,

, in 2001, Allien has produced five more full-length albums, each the culmination of a different stylistic phase in her genre-flouting career (which has even included a foray into fashion design).

Her latest,

, is also a departure from what came before, a warmer breed of techno-pop tweaked and teased through experimental soundscapes. One of the few constants in Allien’s musical oeuvre is her focus on the city of Berlin. We asked her to speak to us about some of the Berlin musicians that inspire her today and help define the current scene.

Sascha Funke “He’s very beautiful. The way he’s DJing, it’s very emotional. Many girls are always coming to his parties. He’s a DJ and producer, producing music between house [and] minimal techno, with an indie rock touch. His energy is really nice, how he mixes them.

“A rock band plays for maybe two hours, but the best DJs play for five and a half hours. In America, it’s coming back a little bit, the feeling for electronic music. But in terms of DJ performance, the way we celebrate parties here is completely different. There’s more of an energy. Because, you know, here we have no closing time. It’s longer. The culture is different. DJs have time to build it up.

“Sascha Funke is not just techno. Techno people listen to everything. They go to parties. They go to concerts where Caribou is playing. It’s completely mixed, the scene here. If you go in the club, you dance. If you go to a rock show, you go to a rock show. Since I’ve made music, I’ve played guitar, I played saxophone, I played in bands. Jam sessions for hours without recording. I’m not just a DJ.”

DJ Magda “She’s American, actually, but she lives in Berlin. She’s been living, I think, four years now in Berlin, and she’s making minimal techno. I first saw her playing in a club somewhere in the city, I can’t remember which. She’s a very good DJ. Very sexy, the way she mixes the beats. She’s completely different from me, more minimal. She’s signed with [Richie Hawtin’s label] Minus.

“A lot of times people move to the city for just three years or something and then they go back to America or Italy or whatever. But they bring the impact, the energy. That’s really good for the scene, because we have all these new people doing something, trying something. That’s why the music scene here is super dynamic. Rich people just visiting for the weekend, that’s what’s killing the city, but as long as people keep moving here, Berlin will remain cool.”

Aerea Negrot “She’s from Venezuela. She sings and her friend is making the music. She’s singing very high frequencies and then dropping down to a man’s voice. Also a bit of a Latino touch. She moved to Berlin about two years ago. We just signed her on BPitch Control. A friend of mine made a mix for her, and I listened to the music. I contacted her, and she’s such a good performer. She’s like dancing crazy, pushing the crowd with this Latino touch, and she’s a transvestite, so the voice goes up really high like opera and then this deep man voice. It’s very intense.

“It’s amazing, her live performance. I run a record company, and I’m thinking about many different ways of performing. I like many different ways of performing. DJs have to let people dance, and a live performance has to fuck them up in the brain, trying to put them on the boat of their own music in one or two hours. Completely different. At BPitch Control we’re not limited to techno. We sign all different bands in the electronic scene, and the electronic scene has a lot of genres. I don’t care about marketing and stuff. That’s just how it is. We try to help them to grow and to work, because they have a big talent.”

Jahcoozi “Jahcoozi is a grime band, and the girl is from Sri Lanka. She’s living here ten or 15 years. I heard her for the first time at WMF Club. She’s singing very well, and the band, they have really good beats to dance. When she’s performing, it’s sexy actually, because she has really long legs and a Sri Lanka touch. And she’s also pushing the crowd like crazy, the way she sings to them. She pushed the dance club to something else with her music.”

Modeselektor “I like them because their live performances are very dynamic, and they work with break beats and beautiful melodies. They’re somewhere between rave, hip hop and techno, kind of hip hop grime mixed with techno. They played in Japan with Radiohead. It’s not about this or that or rock or techno. It’s about what kind of energy is moving people generally.”