With Charles Cohen’s 2xLP Brother I Prove You Wrong, and Senyawa’s equally brilliant Menjadi Rabih Beaini’s Morphine label has had a good run so far in 2015. And with a new release by Pierre Bastien scheduled for later in the year, there is even more to look forward to. Since the label’s first release in 2005, Morphine has kept suggesting unexpected links between leftfield house and techno, avant-guarde electronics and free experimentation. Its carefully curated releases support a wide-open musical field without getting lost in its noise; every release is essential to Morphine’s trajectory. On June 17, CTM and Berghain’s Polymorphism series celebrates the 10th year of Morphine’s ongoing journey with a very special concert night.
The lineup of this evening, put together by Rabih Beaini, who will also be one of CTM 2016’s guest curators, explores heterogeneous ways in which musicians dive into analogue experimentation by bringing together some of the label’s main protagonists. Produced in collaboration with CTM, Berghain, and Berlin-based promoter Manuela Benetton, the night highlights approaches ranging from pure synth laboratories, to hybrid methods using homemade instruments, mechanical orchestras, audiovisual creativity, and universal mysticism.
The music begins with Rabih Beaini himself. A Lebanese-born producer best known for his grainy, imaginative techno as Morphosis, Beaini’s genuine musical ability and a range of influences from krautrock to new wave to folk music seep into his inventive, dark, and emotional productions. Increasingly steering clear of the techno realm in order to explore improvisation and new configurations such as with his Upperground Orchestra, Beaini retains an ongoing fascination with sound synthesis. Tonight Beaini appears as part of a first time collaboration with Berlin-based percussionist and electronic music producer Daniele De Santis/GRÜN, a recent addition to CTM’s Berlin Current initiative.
Pierre Bastien is a musical inventor who, through his delicately anachronistic creations, opens nostalgic spaces for reflection. "Mecanium", Bastien’s orchestra, is an assembly of individual, home-made robots designed to play music mechanically. Constructed from meccano and recycled turntable motors, and numbering more than 80 at last count, the oldest dates back to 1977. Building his loops with the robotic rhythm section, he adds additional melodies, basslines and tone colour for recorded material, and in live performances the musician himself sits amid his mechanised instruments accompanying them on cornet, violin or musical saw.
Synthesizer improviser and experimental composer Charles Cohen has been exploring the possibilities and limits of the Buchla Music Easel synthesizer for over 40 years. Cohen’s intuitive approach to making music combines the spontaneity, energy, and rhythm of free jazz with the sonic possibilities of synthesizers. He released two albums as Ghostwriters with Craig Anderton and Jeff Cain in the 1980s, but a decade later shifted his focus almost exclusively to playing live improvisation that went largely unrecorded. In the 1990s he, Jason Finkleman, and Geoff Gersh played the NYC Knitting Factory every month for almost two years as Straylight, with various well-known jazz players of the city’s downtown scene as guests. He also participated in composer Pauline Oliveros' "deep listening" initiative and band. Up until very recently, Cohen has flown below the public and critical radar. December 2013 saw increased recognition for this pioneering artist’s decades of work with the release of a 3xLP retrospective on Morphine Records.
Despite being part of the Chicago house/techno scene since the 1990s and developing a cult following through his Mathematics record label that counts non-stop releases over the last decade, Jamal Moss, aka Hieroglyphic Being, aka IAMTHATIAM, has continuously eschewed the mainstream. A quick listen to his music reveals why; even his most beat-driven, dancefloor-ready productions slip the shackles of four-on-the-floor via his hallmark distorted bass thump, hazy chords and layers of bleeping, all cobbled into a vague structure that’s more about uncentered pulse than logic. The producer’s music accurately depicts his philosophy; Moss hears music as a unified, hulking beast, beyond races or genres. The raw, energizing sound he purveys is borne of a tough, lonely upbringing, and instilled with a DIY attitude.
Closing the night is Indonesian duo Senyawa, who uniquely manage to embody the aural flavours of Javanese music while exploring the framework of experimental music practice, and extreme musics such as noise rock and metal, pushing the boundaries of all three traditions. In doing so their music strikes a perfect balance between underground and avant-garde influences, and cultural heritage to create truly contemporary Indonesian music. Their sound is comprised of Rully Shabara’s deft extended vocal techniques punctuating the frenetic neo-tribalism of instrument builder Wukir Suryadi’s modern-primitive instrumentation.
Berlin Current is a collaborative initiative from CTM Festival, Berghain, Boiler Room Berlin, BLN.FM, No Fear of Pop, and ICAS. Sponsored by the Musicboard Berlin.