6.3.17

Day Tripper: Best of Berlin's Afterhours Scene

It's March and I'm too tired to stay up all night, aren't you? That's what makes winter & spring such a great time to explore Berlin's afterhour scenes...


Same Bitches @ OHM


DJ Handmade plays regularly at Same Bitches @ OHM


Each time the door cracks open it admits some light, along with a few bodies from the huddle by the cash desk outside. Their shadows quickly dissolve into the dark sound chamber, wading into the music like ducks into water.

Tiled walls and low ceilings gleam with damp in the retired bathhouse, making each watery analogy I dream up seem even more appropriate: people don't come here just to listen to the music, they come here to swim in it.

The rhythm of the waves is being controlled by DJ Handmade who's playing sublime banging mix of techno, tribal house, hard house, acid techno, acid house... Far from sounding like a mishmash, though, these tunes are lined up with an intuition that makes them all seem part of a single genre, a pulse arising from the eternal & pressing need to dance. Here, we're never alone in that mission: the flickering of light in one person ignites something in the others and brings about a revival of the previous night's buzz. The DJ's upbeat, optimistic energy lifts our tired bodies like a pair of helping hands.

Same Bitches is one of a slew of occasional daytime after parties that is fast outstripping the weekly nighttime moves with its dynamic style and sound.  Siegesaeule Magazine has called it, "The sleazy and filthy unofficial Gegen after-hour." If that's true, then it must be true that enlightenment is easier to see in the dark, and purity in the muck; at Same Bitches, the sleaze and filth seamlessly translates into clear-headed euphoria. Sometimes, it's well worth getting a bit of muck on your boots, to grow some wings.

No date has been set for the next Same Bitches party yet, but with two months between each party, it should be around the first week of May.



2. Staub @ About Blank




Another energetic afterhour marathon is Staub, which runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month. Its music tends to be much harder than Same Bitches but the atmosphere is just as much unadulterated fun.

You go there to have an encounter with proper techno, rather than big DJ names because, at Staub, the lineups are never announced. The DJ's sound like they've been selected by someone who likes dancing with their eyes closed, too. Every time I'm there, I hear some new and amazing act that has been rescued from the anonymous DJ slushpile and elevated to new heights of passion, by a restless & adoring crowd.  For that reason, you can't expect to see the same acts twice and the acts that you do see? There's a good chance they'll never sound the same again. The anonymity of Staub works both ways, freeing everyone up whether they're on the dancefloor or behind the decks.

On the lobby dancefloor we saw Esther Dujin playing everything from early 1990s hard techno to more modern Tresor style sounds, with bits of gabber and trance thrown in. Guess she was feeling lucky to try and pull off a mix like that, but it really worked!  On the MDF dancefloor, the music by I/Y was more like hardtek, but still 'soft' enough for regular techno fans to immerse themselves in. Meanwhile, the garden floor was transformed into a beautiful chillout, with warm ambient grooves, plenty of seats, coloured lights, gleaming baubles and vines draped around the ceiling beams. 
In the interests of preserving that image-free vibe, Staub make no promises about its lineups, but the curious can find some sample tunes on their Soundcloud channel.


3. Something Slow @ Beate Uwe 



 


Next, moving even deeper into a retro 1990s chill-out vibe, we headed to this sumptuous Sunday afterhour. It started at around 4 p.m. and drew us with the promise of free brunch eats (they're really good, we tried 'em). The crew at Something Slow greeted everyone with a smile and encouraged us to take off our shoes & dance on the carpet like we would in our own living room (as people are wont to do when they're still rolling, as they roll through the door).

Something Slow was one of the friendliest after parties we've ever been to in Berlin. In all honesty, kindness is the one ingredient that anyone attempting a "retro" rave these days tends to neglect. The nineties were a heyday for chemical happiness, so arriving at any venue that's surrounded by tense bouncers, or full of punters sneering at each others' fashion faux pas, tends to make me feel as marooned in the narcissistic 'now' as watching a Trump speech on TV.  So, it's a huge relief to see that at least three great afterhours parties being run by people who put their full trust in the dancers, letting them go with their inner flow... wherever that may lead.

The next Something Slow is happening Sunday March 12th, from 4 p.m. till dawn.


All photo credits belong to their respective DJs and club promoters



9.2.17

Summer in Berlin is sur-really something!


Hard to remember that fact in February though, isn't it? Winter in Berlin means grey skies, grey streets and a grey-black mood. But at least we have our cameras and videos to remember the summer by, eh? 

Just imagine this: up until colour photography started being widely used, even the memories that people used to keep of this city on film were grey.  That meant they weren't even able to escape into a vision of the summer that had been (and hopefully would be again) like we can. So we should probably all take a second to be thankful for our smartphones, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube - and for Blogger of course!





Technology's transformed the camera since the black n' white days, and made it loads more accommodating to the mind reels of memories that all Berliners collect, to bursting point, each summer. There's never enough time to process all these memories at the time, so why not use the winter lull to try and catch up and make sense of it all? Or at least, to reaffirm how little sense any of it makes? 

As a mini-tribute to the little rectangular glowing screen in front of me that holds on to these memories, and doubles as my replacement sunlight over the winter months, I'm going to share a few of the sights I've stored on it from summer 2016.  Looking through these pictures today brought me a badly-needed hit of vicarious colour, heat and light to fill the end-of-winter void. Here's hoping it will do the same for you!


Streetart in sunny Strausberg, spotted on the way to a pristine lake


Stumbling into openair parties by accident, on the way home from work

Random unexplained statues on the Spree



Wreckage of old buildings being transformed into impromptu canvasses, outside of Berghain



Fete de la Musique @ Friedrichshain

...and protest parades under the sun


All-dayers at building sites full of sand the "beach"

Being able to walk anywhere, wearing anything, without getting cold...

...and keep walking...
...till you pass out in a flamingo boat!?
Ending the day with a sundowner on the Spree :-)

15.12.16

Poisoned Fruit in the Walled Garden - Part II

In the second in a series of posts about the impact of far-right wing trolling on the internet, find out what government operations from both the east and west have in common with the trolls of the alt-right. (Read Part I here)

The alt-right might be in the spotlight now, but its own activities are often overshadowed by the works of other trolls which are on a mission to promote slightly less offensive, conservative views: those of the military and the government.



Nearly everyone these days is familiar with the trolls working for China's 50-cent party, or the denizens of “Putin’s troll factories”. Typically, these trolls pose as Americans or Europeans and try to pack as much disinformation as they can into each rushed comment that they knock out.  They write transparent adulations to those in power in broken, Google-translated English. Their bugbears are the American Democrats; democracy in general; anyone who criticizes Russia or China; the EU; homosexuality (which is criminalized to some extent in both countries).
                                  
The reasons why the governments of Russia and China might have seen fit to mobilize their own sock puppet mobs to tow the party line might seem obvious: the old establishments there would have found it too difficult to cling to their accustomed, totalitarian level of control over popular opinions, in the face of new freedoms and technology.  Few of their dogmatic distortions would have stood a chance online, where millions can find the truth (or at the very least, an opposing view) at the click of a mouse.

But what, then, does this say about the U.S. military when the authors of its narrative choose to employ the same methods as those used by China and Russia, to counter criticism from so-called 'extremists' - particularly when it might be that those 'extremists' are just people with a really good argument?

In 2011, the Central Command of the U.S. military was revealed to have secured a deal with Florida-based cyber security firm NTRepid, to buy up persona management software. This software would allow each service man or woman to own up to 10 sock puppet identities, for use worldwide. Once the impending deal was exposed, the U.S. military was quick to state that none of the personas would work in English or on American soil, but those are the only solid details that have ever been given regarding the program. Centcom’s own insistence that it conducts its online deceptions in a way that ensures ‘maximum deniability’ - namely, by avoiding detection - doesn’t reassure, especially since its closest analogues within the US and the UK have been caught ransacking all of the barriers between the personal and the public; the domestic and the international, in pursuit of similarly-hazy, ‘anti extremist’ aims.  
                                  

Above: a slide from the GHCQ powerpoint presentation that was entered into evidence during Berlin hearings into the role of the German Bundesnachrichtdienst (secret service) in enabling NSA mass surveillance.

The presentation
illustrates how government operations envision themselves infiltrating major social media sites - Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube - using tactics that are nearly identical to those employed by the alt-right. 


The 'Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group' (a department of UK signals agency, the Government Communication Headquarter) has honed an online propaganda program which is being used by America, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, whose spy agencies work together in an alliance known as the "5 Eyes". Although JTRIG is shrouded in secrecy (British MPs say they have no idea what it’s up to), most leaks to date have suggested that it focuses on non-criminal ‘targets’ such as Anonymous, to change their ‘extremist’ views. It is, bluntly speaking, a propaganda machine for conservatism.

In leaked material, JTRIG has admitted that its activities include monitoring ‘domestic extremist groups such as the English Defence League’ and ‘denying, deterring or dissuading hacktivists’. So, its targets are those which might one day pose a threat but haven't yet done anything wrong, nor even planned to.

It should also be remembered that intelligence agencies in both the UK and the US have often been wont to label anti-nuclear activists, animal rights activists, anarchists, anti-globalization activists, ecological activists and even whistleblowers as ‘terrorists’ for their use of “harassment, intimidation and coercion”, and "economic pressure" tactics - which essentially means 'boycotts'.  While these tactics may be considered slightly aggressive by some, they are a far cry from actual, suitcase-go-kaboom terrorism.

A picture slowly forms of a Western intelligence which views anyone who upsets the status quo (or its profit margins) as a physical threat, regardless of the moral questions that are raised by upholding that status quo and those profit margins and regardless of the physical threat which the status quo may pose to society. Additionally, it lumps in activists who idealize causing damage (like jihadis or the neo-nazi far right) alongside activists who idealize peaceful aims,
yet whom eventually resort to some form of non-violent sabotage to achieve them. It’s pretty critical to make a distinction between the two kinds of activists, though, unless one aspires to a nihilistic, materialist society which is wholly devoid of any deeper moral drives or ideals.



Above: a screenshot showing a moment when a Reddit user was caught out using an automated template to post dismissive comments to one of the site’s political subs
 
The JTRIG mission has perhaps been best summarized by the Intercept, which wrote: “Several GCHQ memos published last fall by the Guardian revealed that the agency was eager to keep its activists secret not to protect national security but because, ‘our main concern is that reference to agency practices […] could lead to damaging public debate which might lead to legal challenges against the current regime.

An interesting implication contained in the above statement is that the 5 Eyes alliance which essentially created JTRIG speaks as a single regime - one which coordinates its actions in order to answer needs and desires that are above and beyond the needs and desires of its component nations, or their people. In short, this statement seems to confirm the existence of a superstate whose sovereignty transcends the interests of the member nations... at least in the (five) eyes of the beholder, it does.
 
Perhaps none of this will stand out to internet users as much as some of the juicier controversies that explode out of the social media spheres each week or month, but perhaps that in itself, is what should give them pause.  These official trolls represent oh-so subtle, understated efforts to blend the ‘regime’ message with the messages sent by friends, family and peers, manufacturing the appearance of an agreement among them, where none exists.
In the process, the government's trolls have succeeded in almost validating the garish antics of the alt-right that are grabbing stage centre, at the moment. In their attempts to drum up support for their respective regimes, these trolls are inadvertently propping up the neo-fascist trolls that claim to speak for the silent, right wing masses. 

But can the agendas of these groups even be so different when they agree on the methods, if not the madness that drives them?
 

‘The guarded-aggressive, totalitarian ideology put forth by these people is their main indicator. A few members of this group try to look even somewhat liberal.'

'They introduce arbitrary tracts full of facts and events — often completely fraudulent — that force their opponents to do extensive research to refute them.'


‘It is an absolute orgy of animal hatred...'


'These remarks have been word-for-word identical [...] putting forward exactly the same “arguments”, accusations and insults, using exactly the same phrasing and sentence constructions.'


'One gets the feeling that they are being written by exactly the same people with the same impoverished imagination and vocabulary.'



The above quotes may sound like they are descriptions of tactics that are currently used by the alt-right, but they’re not: they’re taken from a 2007 expose entitled "Commissars of the Internet" which was published on La Russophobe, a dissident blog out of Russia. Its authors worked on the major independent publication, Novaya Gazeta. The series described how many of these writers were harangued and gang-stalked across the online world by feral trolls which showed all the hallmarks of being in the pay of the Kremlin. 

Unlike the alt-right, though, the people trolling the Russian blogosphere were speaking for those at the top of their country’s hierarchy: people who were capable of hiring hit men to silence journalists, and of
shutting down websites at will, with a multi-million-ruble budget on hand from which to pay operatives who would drown out dissent with astroturfing campaigns. Even so, a single voice of opposition was obviously too much for them to bear - nothing but total conformity would do.  It never does, with totalitarians.

One of the journalists whom the authors described as being continually harassed by the Russian brigadniki, acclaimed humanitarian activist and journalist
Anna Politkovskaya, was even assassinated in 2006 - and on Putin's birthday, no less.



“[It] is we who are responsible for Putin's policies ... [s]ociety has shown limitless apathy ... we have let them see our fear, and thereby have only intensified their urge to treat us like cattle. The KGB respects only the strong. The weak it devours. We of all people ought to know that.  From 'Putin's Russia' by Anna Politkovskaya

Totalitarians don't just stop at killing off the local opposition, though; even when dissenters give up the fight and leave Russia for good, officials will still go to great lengths to 'correct' their views in RL (real life). Another famous example of how online trolling can have fallout in RL is that of writer
Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium in London in 2006, after accusing Vladimir Putin of having ordered the death of his fellow journalist, Politkovskaya (somewhat understandable, given the circumstances).

An author on the alt-right website Daily Stormer could well have been voicing the mantra embraced by the Kremlin when he wrote: "This is about survival. We must win by any means necessary, or we will cease to exist". It's the sort of false equivalency that leads true extremists to kill people for their ideas alone. But the beliefs that the Kremlin, the alt-right, and even the NSA are fighting for the survival of seem to be beliefs that are undergoing a natural extinction. They are ideas whose death would make way for some sort of evolution or rebirth in society's consensus.  Do beliefs in mind numbing uniformity, torture, war, prejudice, cruelty and sectarian hate actually ever need rescuing from the brink? 


The alt-right is just one in a long line of astroturfing movements that is being led by a once-privileged group which is facing an online consensus that limits its former
scope of power. And the only way to regain that power, it seems, is to reduce the rest of the world to a droning singularity of voice, identity, thought. 

That is the only way that any despotic regime ever manages to survive.
                                               

Translation of BND-NSA inquiry question (left, above)

Not far from our hearing hall here was the Berlin Wall, which enclosed GDR citizens. We had various deaths - 136 at the inner-German frontier, 872 fatalities which in particular were caused by the Stasi. Against this historical context, I am wondering how you can compare the NSA and that state security?

Answer in English (left, below): "Yes, they've learned the lessons of that surveillance state [the Stasi]". 





“Drowning in information” is the tagline of the latest release of NSA documents that were compiled by Edward Snowden. The sensory overload experienced by spy agencies as they attempt to sift through every thought and image we produce tends to overspill on to us, too. When it comes to leaks about spying on ordinary citizens, those citizens are also drowning in information which they don’t know how to process, to interpret.

The modern internet may be filthy with leaks, but sites which interpret the content of the leaks and share their conclusions are still too thin on the ground and their conclusions are often too limited. Taken together, these sites tend to form a well-intentioned echo chamber that can seem as dislocated from day-to-day online experience as the government itself. But that's an illusion: the Western government's troll operations are just as geared towards engineering a whole new consensus down on the ground as anything done by the 'populist' alt-right.  In this new consensus, opinions exist not to reveal anything, but merely to further the goals of entrenched power.   


In the next post in this series, we will see how corporate culture was instrumental in implanting those goals in the online world, in the first place.  



Like this piece? Check out 'Populism by Unpopular Demand on Fleeting Reams



© A. E. Elliott 2016

This series of articles are taken from an upcoming book by the author. Any attempt to republish or re-use this work without accreditation and/or the author's consent will constitute a breach of copyright.

2.12.16

Poisoned Fruit in the Walled Garden - Part I

WARNING: The views & statements reproduced in this series of articles may be offensive to some readers.

Twenty-sixteen was probably the worst year for online hate speech to date: a year when a grassroots network known as the alt-right managed to overwhelm many online forums and comment boards.

Mobilizing small battalions of sock puppet  (fake) accounts, members of this loose network stormed popular comment sites such as Disqus and Twitter, flooding them with hateful posts on a wide range of global issues: Brexit, Trump, immigration, Islam and a so-called Jewish 'conspiracy'.
It seemed like a clear attempt to mould a new popular consensus  of open contempt for all minorities, everywhere including Berlin. 

It would probably be more fair to call theirs an 'unpopular consensus', though.  Because, no matter what the alt-right would like us to believe, its views are still in the minority.  It is easy to forget that fact, however, when right wing voices are commandeering an increasing proportion of the online conversation.

How big of a proportion? One study undertaken by the Anti-Defamation League to look into antisemitism on Twitter, found that 2.6 million hateful tweets had been posted by just 1,600 individuals in 2016.  (By way of contrast, the writer of this piece has only sent 1,300 tweets  of any kind, within the last five years). Together, these anti-Semitic tweets were seen around 10 billion times in total.

The study's authors wrote that, 'Waves of anti-Semitic tweets tend to emerge from closely connected online “communities.”  These aggressors are disproportionately likely to self-identify as Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, or part of the “alt-right."'

Alt-right websites like Breitbart have been instrumental in mobilizing right wing trolls to carpet-bomb social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Disqus with hate speech, so as to engineer phoney "public outcries" over current issues. These issues can be as trivial as the new Ghostbusters film, or as big as the Brexit.  

On other websites connected to the alt-right, such as 4Chan and Daily Stormer, one can find the same trolls openly organizing "troll raids" and "twitter storms". Site readers are encouraged to forge an array of bogus identities (black people, asians and women seem to be popular choices) from which to post hate speech. They do this with the express intent of normalizing bigotry and dividing groups that would otherwise stand together in the face of right wing hate. 


Above: Troll raid callouts on the neo-nazi website Daily Stormer



Above: alt-right trolls swap strategies for turning blacks against Jews

So what does any of this have to do with Berlin? 

Well, the alt-right now seems to be targeting English language sites in Germany like TheLocal.de. It seems to be doing this in the hopes of drumming up enough hatred against refugees and immigrants to secure a win for one of Germany's far right parties in the next elections.  

And this is anything but a "local" phenomenon: one needs only enter "thelocal.de" + "[any white nationalist website]" into a search engine to see how often articles from The Local are being reposted in the extremist backwaters of the internet - many of which reputedly originate in the American deep South.

The number of extreme right-wing comments on The Local began to rise starting in 2014. Interestingly, this was the same year that the Christian Democratic Union announced its open-borders policy, which was quickly commended by President Obama.  It seems that this move was enough to kick the neo-nazi troll machine into action - possibly due to fears that Obama might try to emulate Germany's open-doors refugee policy.  

Alt-right trolls are easy to identify: they seem to spend most of every day and night posting hateful comments and scouring the internet for scare stories that they can connect refugees or Islam in some way... no matter how tenuous that connection may be. But they don't reflect the views that are actually held by most English-speaking German residents, anymore than they reflect the views that are held by most Americans, when they invade overseas websites. 


Right-wing commenters have become ubiquitous on TheLocal.de
It's true that far-right membership in most Western countries has increased somewhat (a fact which should not be ignored), but there is still a noticeable gap between the proportion of bigoted views one sees online, and the proportion of those same views one sees in real life.

Distorting the online mirror to make one group seem bigger than another is simple, funhouse trick that anyone with enough money or the time can pull off, it seems.
But w
hereas Twitter and Facebook can be manipulated to push one agenda over another, government studies and other social barometers of are less easy to fool.


In the 2015 World Values Survey, one of the biggest studies of its kind, only a relatively small percentage of respondents revealed a bias that was in any way similar to those held by the alt-right. When asked which kind of people they would prefer not to live next to, only 5% - 22% of respondents revealed a bias against people of colour, immigrants, women, queer people, etc. Below is a sample of those results:

Does not want a multiracial neighbour: Germany 14,8%, United States 5.6%

Does not want a migrant neighbour: Germany: 21.4%, United States: 13.6%

Thinks that a woman's rights to work comes second to a man's: Germany 15.5%, United states: 5.7%
 
So clearly, the levels of casual racism, sexism and overall bigotry are far lower in society than a glance at Twitter or Disqus would seem to suggest. One can see a mirror image of the alt-right effect in the German groups Pegida.  Despite claiming to speak for some sort of silent majority, the protest group rarely seems to get more than a couple of hundred people to their events, outside of the mostly-white east.  (This writer once saw a demo of theirs which consisted of a dozen people, with nearly half that number again made up of press trying to cover the event).

The German  Verfassungschutz's 2015 publication also indicates that membership in far right parties in Germany totals just 11,800 people. Yet, until very recently, almost 100% of views expressed on English language sites in Germany have been far-right. This is why it's dangerous
for social media users to view their platforms as an honest reflection society's views: because groups like the alt-right are all too happy to manipulate that perception.

It's not hard to foil the alt-right's insidious plot to fool the people, though, since it openly announces its intentions to do so on its key websites. There, right wing trolls can be seen discussing ways to mislead people by planting faked news items; organizing Twitter raids; harassing journalists; etc. And since unofficial alt-right leader Andrew Anglin has admitted to owning sock puppet accounts and The Daily Stormer has a [now private] section for organizing troll raids (TRS).

How can the alt-right afford to be so open about its activities? Simply put, it knows that no one is looking... not even journalists, it seems. This may be why it was possible for one "news clip" about a pro-Trump student getting beaten up at school to viral without anyone realizing that the clip - shot on a smartphone and circulated via YouTube - did not contain a single word about Donald Trump or the election. 
 

The alt-right is counting on internet users who are in a hurry and are willing to go glomming after the most shocking snippet they can find, and pass it on without taking time to check its authenticity. It's a tendency that all internet users eventually fall victim to eventually, though, however intelligent they may be.  So in this one sense, the alt right is teaching us 'normies' an important lesson: shock-trolling only works when internet users prioritize shock value. Instead of banning fake news websites, perhaps Facebook would be better offer reminding its users to 'Question Everything'.

However high profile the alt-right may be, though, it hasn't managed to commandeer the internet's discussion platforms all by itself. In the next of three posts, find out what the alt-right has in common with government troll operations from both the East and the West.    

Part II will be published next Wednesday, December 14th

Like this piece? Check out "Populism by Unpopular Demand" on Fleeting Reams 

© A. E. Elliott 2016

This series of articles are taken from an upcoming book by the author. Any attempt to republish or re-use this work without accreditation and/or the author's consent will constitute a breach of copyright. 
 

25.11.16

Techno Party



Throw together a building without owner, opening times without curfew, people without limits, music without definition, and you have a squat party.

That pair of words conjures up more images than any two in the English language.  Crowded night buses.  Roads to nowhere. Lorries. Dogs. Queueing and smoking.  Haggling. Drinking.  Snorting.  All just a preamble to the main feature: the dancefloor, and all the subplots that spin out of control on it.

A stage of pallets and speakers, set for a chemical cabaret.  The fantastical, the fanatical, the enlightened, the dejected - a lineup of gems in the rough - all take their turns and bow out. 

Next up: the Old Bill. Their stony-faced dispatch enters stage right: cue first intermission break.  Floodlights glare on flattened beer cans and electrified, blinking stares.  Rolly smoke pirouettes in the air.

Eventually they retreat, freeing the party. Regular scheduling resumes: heaving techno, sweating effuse from the walls and ceiling.  Dripping on our necks.  A dancer's long, blonde hair is tossed like 3 sheets to the wind.  

A fairy-tale pixie enchanting the DJ.  LSD administered like communion by traveler-priests.  Conspiratorial huddle grows outwards from the decks.  Ethereal, pervasive reality.  Sunrise and sunset, following too closely on each other's heels. 

You've been holding yourself back for something but can't remember why, now.  Commitments to the outside world recede, reduced to pinpoints on the horizon. Hoarded energies held back for the future are released as steam to the present, pumping up the volume on the moment to the max. 

Monday to Friday, you are marooned in the forced routines of work, study and mass transit.  But between Friday and Monday, the blaze of sight and sound consumes you.  You leap from one weekend to the next, uncharted outcroppings in oceans of static.   The poise and polish of everyday life vanish with all the routines.  You are not your best self here, just your real self.

Mornings so raw and honest, all contingency plans become obsolete except for constant movement. Staying  ahead of the people who would compromise today for tomorrow's prospects, postpone all action until it's achieved via remote-control. The only way to move beyond their reach is to Keep. On. Dancing.

Between parties all these details are magically forgotten, stored in a part of your brain that's only used when fucked. A saga that resumes every time you drop another pill. Don't leave it too long though, lest you forget to reach --

The End.

You can find great photos of parties from the years that this piece refers to at London photographer Molly Macindoe's website.

30.9.16

Without Resistance, No Underground.


I could feel that something wasn't right.  Even though it was a crowded dancefloor, someone was bumping into me a little too regularly in time with the music, as if they were mirroring my moves. But I still wasn't prepared for what I saw when I turned my head: a little troll of a man, grinding his pelvis as close to my ass as he could get without committing an assault. But actually, he had already crossed that line a few times; it was just that the intentional nature of that assault had been camouflaged by the general mayhem happening around us.

The smarmy expression on his face made it pretty clear that this wasn't just an accident, though, as did the fact that he didn't back away once he was caught - not until I 'assisted' him with a sharp shove and the suggestion to stay well the fuck away.

He vanished, and I thought the message had been received.  But then, a few minutes later and just a few feet away, I saw him rubbing up against yet another woman in the same creepy, auto-erotic way.  Her back was turned and she seemed unaware what was happening, so  I went over and warned her to watch herself. She looked vaguely shame-faced about it (why? She hadn't done anything wrong). A few seconds later she had left.

He stayed.

This, to me, is an example of what happens when ethics are removed from a scene that used to be underground: the questioning and yearning for self-reinvention that made it so relevant in the first place - that gave it the 'people power' at the grassroots level that it needed to thrive - vanishes.  It becomes a microcosm of the society around it, warts and all, rather than an alternative.

Maybe that's why more and more people in the music press are talking about the alienation of women, blacks and even queers (the longest standing demographic in all party scenes) from the modern techno industry. That's all very well, but the majority of articles take the tone of "why aren't straight white men inviting minorities into the scene" when the fact is that we have always been part of it. We are just being erased by the media and driven away by the newcomers that have embraced its rather materialistic, new definition. Techno is fast becoming (or has fast become, depending who you ask) a 'zombie' underground. It carries on without any real purpose because it no longer challenges the status quo, and is therefore less threatening for the faceless masses it's aimed at. 

Maybe that's why quite a few people in Berlin have told me that they see techno clubs as being necessarily apolitical. Even when they, themselves, are spending two days a week at said clubs, they claim that they can't ever be relevant; that they can't make any lasting changes to the way that people think or act.

Saying that to a person like me is a bit like telling an Inuit that the sky can't light up with beautiful colours in the middle of a long, dark Arctic night.

Pitchfork's Andy Beta has written that Detroit's Underground Resistance label was "a reaction to inner-city decay," and I can definitely identify with that statement.  Techno as I first experienced it was a reaction to, and a revival of, all the dereliction that made areas like Detroit (and similar parts of the urbanized West) seem like no-go zones.

Note that I say 'experienced' and not 'heard'.  That's because techno was very much unleashed from the restrictions of being just a 'sound' at that time (1998).  Everyone there presumed me to be their equal and a partner in the scene's creation, rather than a vehicle to some selfish, disconnected state of enjoyment. As an equal, my freedom to change what was around me was as great as theirs. That's an experience that no DJ or artist, no matter how edgy, can create all alone.

Random acts of self-expression were everywhere I looked: the now-standard fire eating acts and impromptu art 'installations' made out of scraps, plus less standard things like people scaling the wall with their bare hands.  Because people were allowed to go to any extreme they wanted, they tended to take off on tangents that weren't already well represented in the mainstream. Sexism, racism, theft and assault were just too damned predictable to waste time on. (It wasn't just an effect of creativity - many people drawn to free parties had a left wing slant, but the parties themselves weren't seen as a place to preach about it). 

And techno, the sound that's now so well defined by anoraks, was a random meshing of frantic tensions and clashing factions; a controlled sonic explosion, a demolition that the DJ would skillfully weave back together into something resembling mental structure.  The 4/4 beat was a baseline that could be manipulated as needed to match the mood, a way of conjuring whatever it was that people felt their cities lacked, but that authorities fell short of actually creating.

Techno's format wasn't ever intended to be a holy dictum, un-corruptible and complete - it was the sound of change and versatility.  Maybe the venues that play it should better reflect that fact.

But how can they recreate that mentality these days?

That's the real question. I've seen two crews in the club scene that have managed it, seemingly effortlessly: the people at Mensch Meier and at Zuruck Zu Den Wurzeln.  Both have a clear, "If you see something, say something" policy that states any bad behaviour, especially against minorities, gets a negative response. Both have crews that are made up of women and men as well, which certainly helps.

But what seems to matter even more than the rules they've made, is the setting.  Each of these crews creates a stable space that keeps changing with the people in it to accommodate their needs. In a place like that, everyone really IS an equal and a partner in the party's creation. As a result, they treat it with greater respect.

Clubs that have a static 'product image' that they enforce un-sentimentally seem to have far more aggravation at them.  Maybe that's because they tend to let people in for the wrong reasons: either 1) because they're able to play by established rules (which also tend to be unfair and antiquated rules) or 2) because they can unquestioningly follow the herd (and therefore lack any moral compass).  Asking everybody to check their brains at the door seems like it requires a lot more effort and stress than simply altering the way that clubs behave. 

In Berlin though, there are already certain venues that can generally be relied upon to keep their parties relevant to the cause of resistance. Here are a couple of suggestions of where to go to find them in the coming weeks:

The Koepi cellar has two benefit parties with wicked underground tunes this weekend, one on Friday that is in support of free migration. Starts 23:00 and features Tekno Tribe DJs.

On Saturday they have another benefit party for Needle‘n‘Bitch, a queer-feminist project in Yogyakarta/Indonesia that aims to "provide safe, secure, and comfort feeling for anyone who are not able to access it in this sexist, patriarchy, and homophobic society." Starts at midnight and they're playing D‘n‘B, Breakcore and Hardtekk.

This Saturday Mensch Meier has a benefit to help out the Rigaer Strasse campaign against forced evictions and police intimidation (read more about that here and here). Plus there's a Tattoo Station. It's 8-12 Euros to get in with a donation.
 
Next Friday is yet another Invasion party featuring Spiral Tribe and Latitanz DJs, also at Mensch Meier. The Invasion crew aims to bring different free party systems from around Europe to every one of their parties in Berlin.  Every event they've done has been intense and diverse, but different in some fundamental way from the last one. This crew really keeps me guessing... even though I sometimes think I already know it all, when it comes to underground parties. How nice to be proven wrong!




And on Saturday the 8th there is a very timely forum about sexual violence called Fear Makes No Nois" at Mensch Meier, starting at 14:00, plus an after party. It's organized by a member of the Am Boden crew, so it should be strong on ethics and musical integrity.



Next Saturday October 8th, About Blank is doing a party called "Under Techno, There's Punk" (my translation).  The aim there is to reconnect some of Berlin's clubbers with the rebellious roots of punk. How they'll achieve that radical transformation with a club full of writhing glittery dancers is an interesting question... but I'm curious to find out!


The emphasis on the material aspects of the techno scene - style, technology, rankings - seems like a neat way of avoiding any discussion about the revolutionary associations that the scene previously had, and what the best way to keep them alive in this day and age may be. 

But maybe some people are just afraid to face up to these aspects of techno because they're less tangible, less easy to nail down and describe. It's a bit like being afraid of the dark. The answer isn't to ignore what happens in the murky corners, either on a dancefloor or within one's psyche: it's to shine a light on them and ask if everything is all right.
All writing & images © A. E. Elliott (unless otherwise specified)

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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, streetart, left-wing activism, social media trends and green issues. Other publications that I have written for include: Urban Challenger Blog, Siegesaeule, Shlur, Alternative Berlin, Sensanostra.