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Review

Embracing the chaos: ascendent vierge bring their new sound to Berghain

With French-Belgian duo ascendent vierge, the world of electronic music has gained a new innovative voice. Last week, they made their debut at Berghain. Here’s how it went. 

Photo: Sergio De Rezende.

Experiencing ascendent vierge’s music is like looking at a piece of abstract expressionism. It takes a while until the erratic amalgamation of aimless brush strokes and splashes of colour comes together as one piece, revealing its meaning to the viewer. Pulsating and restless, the soundscapes ascendent vierge create are genre-bending, combining hardstyle techno with operatic vocals. On paper this combination sounds completely incongruous, but they somehow make it work.

In April, ascendent vierge released their debut album, Une Nouvelle Chance (“a new chance”). On the cover, the pair, consisting of French singer Mathilde Fernandez and Belgian DJ and producer Paul Seul, pose in front of a crashed aeroplane, gazing into the far distance (the future?) with determination, ready to unleash their new concoction into the world. And it seems they’re taking it very seriously.

Even though their soundscapes are pure chaos, the lyrics and bridges are discernible – and they’re catchy

Currently, the pair are on their first tour across Europe. Last Wednesday, they made a stop at Berghain. Standing in the notorious line, the first thing we notice is how young the crowd is, attested by the bouncers’ frequent inquiries into the ages of excitable queuers. Two mandatory stickers covering the phone cameras and up the metal staircase, we’re standing on the industrial hollow that is Berghain’s balcony. The twentysomethings, many of them French speakers and dressed to the nines, scutter around, giggling, smoking, exploring the grounds.

Album cover for Une Nouvelle Chance.

Anticipation is high. When Fernandez and Seul step onto the stage, the crowd audibly choke on their words as conversations turn into excited cheers and shrieks. Ascendent vierge are on a mission, diving straight in. What already seems like a daunting mix of genres becomes even more confusing in the live performance. Fernandez’ operatic wails layered on top of Seul’s relentless beats feel like gunshots that you’re compelled to duck at first, but then they slowly transform into an endlessly intoxicating cocktail that you just gulp, gulp, gulp. 

The duo manages something that is a rarity in the world of techno: the crowd sings along. Even though their soundscapes are pure chaos, the lyrics and bridges are discernible – and they’re catchy. Ascendant vierge still reserve some unpredictability: whenever a song breaks up, pauses or otherwise suggests to have ended, the crowd falls into applause, whistling and screaming, before they’re rudely interrupted again and again. But that doesn’t bother the throng; they’re eager to let Seul and Fernandez know that what they’re doing is much needed, scratching this generation’s itch for something new and exciting.