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Electric Independence

All my friends who live in Berlin say you'd have to be nuts to live anywhere else.

Richie Hawtin


Top: Minimize To Maximize

Bottom: Marco Passarani

All my friends who live in Berlin say you'd have to be nuts to live anywhere else. Having spent a wild few days there recently, I'm inclined to agree, mainly because I was on holiday mode and pleasure was top of the menu. It's still one of the cheapest and most relaxed major cities in Europe, and with its wide open streets it feels underpopulated, like there's space to live. The quality of life there's way better than in the UK, and I swear that beneath the couple of inches of snow that falls before I arrive, the pavements are lined with gold. The city's electronics scene is obscenely fertile, and they party hard. You can see why so many musicians and producers have moved there, like Luciano, Ricardo Villalobos, Jamie Lidell and Richie Hawtin (most people, in fact; no one is actually from Berlin). Studio space is cheap as chips and it seems everyone's up for exchanging ideas and collaborating. Maybe that's why the minimal style still rules east Berlin, because everyone's so busy doing a million different things they don't have time to fully embellish their tracks. For anyone accustomed to London's varied but patchy club scene, it's totally inspiring to immerse yourself non-stop in Berlin's rave culture for a few sleep-deprived days. At a Cadenza party in the Panorama Bar, upstairs in a cavernous old energy factory newly converted into Berlin's premier superclub thanks to a €3 million local government investment, big-hearted label boss Luciano, Serafim, the lovely Cassy Britton and special guest Jackson played records I'd never heard before for nine hours. Well, Jackson spun a crazy set but ignored the night's unspoken four-four template and confused a lot of people who couldn't handle his style. So Luciano restored order with this trance-like music that's kind of house without the house (the funk) and techno without the techno (the rage). Once an hour you hear an incredible track—such as Sleeparchive's alarmed "Bleep 2" or Tobi Neumann's excellent remix of Dinky's "Acid In My Fridge"—and by about 9 A.M. you realise that however advanced this music is, in its own way it's also very conservative. We returned the following night to investigate Ost Gut, the hardcore gay club that happens below the Panorama Bar in the same building. Brooks spoke candidly of his lost weekend in Ost Gut in our Dos & Don'ts issue, awaking blistered and bruised on black PVC sheets. There are lots of long dark corridors where anything goes. There's not a single mirror in the whole club. Upon entering, cameras, even mobile phone cameras, are confiscated by the bouncers so that whatever antics occur in Ost Gut remain in Ost Gut. If you're into dancing next to buff shirtless gay dudes on podiums then this is your dream night out. But again the music was first-class: James Holden, the dextrous young London producer who runs the Border Community label (home to Nathan Fake and The MFA) destroyed the main floor with a CD-DJ set of curdled Wagnerian Kompakt trance. Then doughty east German Robag Wruhme, one of the Wighnomy Brothers, took over, downed a bottle of vodka and further assaulted the Muscle Marys. Eight hours later and we're in an old Turkish ballroom in Kreuzberg called Beatstreet for an insane Minus rave, the best party I've been to in years. It started at lunchtime on Sunday and merrily continued for 12 hours, brutally commandered by Richie Hawtin's Minus crew: Magda, Troy "Slacknoise" Pierce and Hawtin himself, who was tripping as he dispensed a freestyle battering consisting of loops and instant re-edits triggered using his customised mixing desk. About 800 people piled into Beatstreet. The cloakroom was full in five minutes and folk were twitching and jiggling to slappy broken beats and sumptuous stop-start grooves all over the place. I don't know what you call this music but a, it's fantastic and b, there's 74 minutes of the stuff on the debut Minus Records compilation, Minimize To Maximize, which is 2005's first truly essential record. Bookended by tracks from Plastikman (whose "Circles" is like a "Spastik" reduction) and Mathew Jonson (the deliciously moist "Rainforest"), M2M contains some of the freakiest narco-disco jack-trax around, like Niederflur's concussed "Sprinkler" and Magda's delirious "The Black Room". But despite Minus's highbrow reputation, it's never a difficult listen: "Hot Sugar Candy Apple Taffy" by Heartthrob and Dinky Dog's "UnEasy Horizons" tease and seduce with dippy melodies and capricious arrangements. It's thrilling to hear an album today that sounds thoroughly alien, like it's been beamed in from the future, and isn't remotely nostalgic. Still on the German tip, there's a wonderful new single on Kompakt by The Field called "Things Keep Falling Down". Axel Willner, the Swedish producer, has fashioned these two exquisitely smacky 15-minute trance tracks—"Love Vs Distance" and "Thought Vs Action"—out of a couple of familiar samples. Simple and strange. And if you haven't yet placed an order for Marco Passarani's amazing new album, Sullen Look (Peacefrog), then what are you waiting for? This is the Roman analogue legend's romantic masterpiece, a soulful and serene synth odyssey that's funky as hell, too. There's a cool acid house cover of Alexander O'Neal's "Criticize" but the real tear-stained gems are "Earth's Heart" and "C-B-S Master Theme". OK? PIERS MARTIN