I Went To Planet Giegling and Never Want To Go Home

The mysterious German crew took over New York this past weekend for three days of art and techno.
09 February 2017, 9:29am
Foster Mickley

It's always a special feeling when you get your hands on a Giegling record. The Weimar, Germany-based label has exploded in popularity since their humble beginnings in 2006 as a house party that evolved into a club and later became the imprint, yet everything they do still has a personal, homespun mystery about it. The artists themselves are reclusive and tend to avoid the media. Their most prolific producer, Traumprinz (AKA DJ Metatron, Prince of Denmark) who wrote 2016's best track and smudges everything with his mark of euphoric melancholy, doesn't play gigs and never shows his face. Their records feature hand-made covers drawn in crayon and stamped in ink, and they fly off record store shelves within days. If you don't grab one quickly, they can be prohibitively expensive to buy second-hand

Photo by Foster Mickley

I was thrilled when Giegling announced the Planet Giegling world tour early this year, planning multi-night takeovers in February and March across the US, Europe and Asia with concerts, club nights, art installations, and a pop-up record shop selling exclusive 12" only available on the tour. The tour was billed to explore the possibility of achieving a "gesamtkunstwerk"—a complete, synergistic artwork through various, tightly curated parties. Their shows this past weekend in New York were hosted by techno institution The Bunker, and promised three experiences: a Friday night art show and collaborative ambient performance from the Giegling ensemble at the Knockdown Center, a Saturday club night with individual live and DJ sets at Good Room, and a Sunday afternoon closing party/hang out as the crew deinstalled their art back at Knockdown.

Photo by Foster Mickley

When I arrived inside the concert space in Queens on Friday night, the concrete and steel structure, an old door factory, was transformed into an otherworldly scene, featuring photography, painting, sculpture, and multimedia installations—all the works left untitled and their artists uncredited. I reached out to the label to ask who made the works, or if anything had been shown before, but they responded that such information would defeat the purpose of their project.

Silver tinsel seems to hold a special place in the heart of the Giegling crew. I first saw it fastened between floor, ceiling, and the support beams in the main room of Knockdown. The crisscrossing material hung loosely between the beams, light enough that it effortlessly floated in the air, its form something like the shape of a planet or a star. It sparkled gently in the dim lit space. I saw it like a shredded discoball, an enigmatic presence that filled me with wonder and calm.

The same tinsel appeared on a black and white polaroid picture on a wall in the same room, although in the photo, the sparkling silver material was hung from the ceiling—prefiguring the form it would take the following night. Maybe it's a relic from their old parties, or a symbol of something else entirely, but as the DJs heads brushed up against its dangling fringes in the booth in the Good Room on Saturday, it reflected and refracted the lights to a magical effect.

Photo by Erez Avissar

As the most prominent feature in the spaces both nights, the tinsel engaged me, and helped me to notice the sparkles all around: photos printed on glossy paper, paintings covered in a cerulean glitter, inflatable waving tubes (the kind you see at car dealerships), quietly billowing with a silky sheen. The music in the concert sparkled in it's own way too, crackling piano keys, sunny field recordings, washing pads and triumphant melodies.

The music planned for Friday was a mix of live interpretations of non-dancefloor-oriented Giegling material. After a short noise set by an unannounced member of Giegling beside a flickering fluorescent tube, and a gorgeous live tape-loop set from Birds & Tapes, the "ensemble" took their seats at the front of the room, sitting along a table with beautiful flower arrangements interspersed between them. The scene was something like a techno "Last Supper."

Photo by Foster Mickley

Giegling co-founder Konstantin fixed himself on a DJ mixer in the middle of the action, while he was joined by Kettenkarussel, Edward, ATEQ, and Vril as they mixed a pensive set of stunning ambiance, hitting the heartstrings somewhere between funereal and euphoric, their hallmark sound. Each of the artists were locked on their laptop screens as the crowd lay lounging on the concrete floor, gazing at the pink and blue lit ceiling. While heavy in ambiance, the set wasn't beatless. The music of Vril, known for his dubby, dense techno, washed over the speakers with a ferocity outmatching the DJs' gently bobbing heads and content grins as they rocked to the mutated daydream of "Torus XXXII" and later, "Otolith"'s heaving half-time crawl. For a Friday night, the bar remained conspicuously empty; it was clear people were there to be engulfed by the music.

The following night at the second-floor Greenpoint club Good Room, Giegling did what they do best, and threw a damn good party. I stayed locked in the main room for most of the evening, where ATEQ delivered a blisteringly bass-heavy live set. It was a 4/4 pulse nearly from start to finish, as the artist delivered incisively minimal sounds showing every permutation of a thundering kick drum. Around 1:30 AM, Konstantin took the controls for a DJ set warming up with a mix of dub and deep techno, echoing some of the strongest moments from Prince of Denmark's gargantuan 8 LP with his rolling kick drum, sub bass, and restrained use of melody.

It was about as seductive as techno can get, never scary, over the top, or paranoid. But as the clock neared 3 AM, Konstantin dropped Objekt's "The Stitch-up" to a flurry of dancers unprepared for harsh noise breakdowns after over an hour of a steady and satisfying kick drums. He shrugged off their confused looks and chuckled to his friends in the booth.

Photo by Erez Avissar

Konstantin's decision to break the flow of his set was a reminder not to take things too seriously, and never get stuck in one place. It also drew the dancefloor out of the hypnosis which the DJ had built, suddenly bringing everyone together in a moment of acute awareness and presence. Moments like these remind you that reality may not be so pretty, but Planet Giegling can provide a brief respite. When everything else is ugly, beauty shines so much brighter.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly ID'd a track played by Konstantin (the track was by Objekt, not Bruce), and incorrectly attributed a short noise set to ATEQ. We apologize for the error.

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