Impressions from CTM Festival 2018

When CTM lifts the veil to what’s hot in experimental music, you know what to do. The topic of this years edition was as political as ever: turmoil. What to expect from CTM 2018? Not less than gender and genre-bending performances. The festival, in its role of the most important festival for experimental music in Germany, always holds the promise of broadening your horizon. This years edition ranged from expressionist choreographies to a Berghain dancefloor turned into a gabber and hardcore haven. In its best moments, the festival gives you something to chew on for the rest of the year. One week full of unsettling impressions, in the best sense.

Tuesday – Ernest Berk, The Complete Expressionist at HAU

Berlin’s HAU (Hebbel am Ufer) ranges among the top places for contemporary dance, but also always holds a special affinity for electronic music. Multi-talented and underrated choreographer Ernest Berk was in the center of a special performance night. In a mix of musique concrète and dance, Ernest Berk’s work is unique. He’s been a pioneer of electronic music in the 70ies and had a keen interest in combining both dance and new ways of producing sound. The ensemble worked with bespoken choreographies and finished the performance in a vulnerable and ecstatic piece, with all dancers in nude.

Pan Daijing and Rashad Becker picked up Berk’s approach to music and combined forces for a performance, taking place in the aftermath of the dance piece itself. Having to compete with the exhausted attention of the audience, that had been through almost two hours of dance, the sound performance was more of a cool down.

Wednesday – SKALAR (Christopher Bauder & Kanding Ray) at Kraftwerk

Music and emotions go hand in hand. It’s the unique magic of music, same for light, to manipulate and stimulate certain states of being. That’s where Kanding Ray and Christopher Bauder come in. They created a large-scale installation in Berlin’s Kraftwerk (the same venue that hosts the experimental music festival Atonal in August) that combines Bauder’s craft of light and Kanding Ray’s acute sense for dramatic music. A great match, that expresses in an installation, that uses light and sound to create a Gesamtkunstwerk of mind-blowing capacity. 65 motorized Mirrors with LEDs, 90 moving lights and an 8 channel sound system create an experience, that seemlessly flows through a variety of emotions. Have you ever wondered what sadness looks like as a cosmic spectacle? SKALAR gave the answer in it’s dramatic, almost spiritual way. The installation can be visited until the 24th of February and is open to the public.

Thursday – Pan Daijing / FIS / IOANN in 4DSOUND at MONOM

Located in the historical Funkhaus (broadcasting house) of Berlin’s industrial east, MONOM has found it’s home. The Berlin center for spatial sound hosts the “world’s most developed spatial sound instrument” which was built by the collective 4DSOUND. With so much production power and potential, the expectation for the performances in the venue was quite high. Performing artists that night were Pan Daijing, FIS and IOANN. Overall, the artists were showcasing their styles and playing with the many possibilities such a massive multi-channel system holds. Easy to get lost in so many possibilities. FIS meditative sound seemed to fit the audience mode of reception, sitting on the floor, perfectly. Pan Daijing stirred up the crowd with a simple command “Don’t sit down, please!”. Her performance had the appeal of a video game soundtrack, both creepy and multi-dimensional.

Watch out for the performances and experiments at this new promising venue. We haven’t seen it’s full potential yet!

Friday – Rashad Newsome “Berliner FIVE” at HAU

In another night at HAU, multi-disciplinary artist Rashaad Newsome fused a vogueing performance, live music and visual art. With a huge influence on subculture and club culture in the late 80ies, vogueing is somehow part of club cultures legacy. It’s seen a recent come back all over the world, with Berlin being home to a vibrant new scene.

Using video game controllers and a custom-made motion tracking software, Newsome mapped the artists and their movement, that turned into a scribble-like visualization. With the eye jumping from vogueing femme dancers to the screen behind them, the movement became readable on a whole new level. Live barriton Justin Austin and Mc. Princess Mami Precious brought framed the experience with their voices. Unlike Tuesday’s more intellectual approach, the night’s audience was infused the local Berlin vogueing scene. With this kind of crowd in the audience, the experience energized both performers and spectators.

Friday – Adrenalin / Endorphin at Berghain/Panorama Bar

Pumped up from the vogueing at HAU, the way to a Berghain turned gabber wasn’t so far. While queuing, we’d been sandwiched by a posh looking couple in their 40ies and seemingly Scandinavian tourists, that had more than a few beers. When the posh looking couple was in front of the door, the bouncer, in unusual politeness, explained to them that they might not be the right audience for a nigh of gabber and hardcore. A rare sight.

Enter Berghain. The concrete club turned into a museum for a museum, that is astonishingly productive. Gabber is – apart from its historical place in the evolution of club music, still a productive genre. Within CTM’s programming, the club night on the last weekend in Berghain is normally reserved for a showcase of contemporary music. This year, they turned Berghain into a walkable museum. Legends like The Darkraver ( who’s been performing his up to 190 bpm for years, next to contemporary affiliate HDmirror and Poland’s neo-gabber player WIXAPOL S.A.

Intermission in Panorama Bar, where endorphin was the neurotransmitter of the night. The difference couldn’t be bigger, but here the likes of Perel, Lakuti and Laurel Halo were turning the dancefloor into a mellow house dream. Solid performances and deep vibes, especially from Perel. Panorama Bar is at it’s best with a house beat and a beautiful voice singing live.

Back in the boom boom boom of Berghain, a crowd as diverse as never stomped to the beats. Rave kids, born at the same time as gabber was invented, danced next to veterans of the fast and nasty dancefloor. It became hard to tell, who had dressed up and who was really going for the gabber experience head to toe from the bottom of their heart. The whole night was meandering between ironic approximation towards the genre and pure fun and adrenaline.


Once more CTM has proven it’s vital role in electronic and experimental music. While it makes performances and events possible, that couldn’t be featured with the frame of the festival, there is still more to find and explore in Berlin’s underground. See you next year with more adventurous music!


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