Music & clubs

Lockdown beats: Music for Isolation

TIPS! From ambient to jazz, metal to deep house, all kinds of sounds can suit long days and nights alone. Our music editor has some hot tips from the Berlin underground.

Image for Lockdown beats: Music for Isolation

The Pleasure Majenta, a Berlin band keeping Cashmere Radio’s Tristan Simpson sane during the lockdown. (Photo via Bandcamp.)

If you’re anything like us, music has helped you get through long days on lockdown. In fact, you might have listened to so much music that you desperately need new tunes – even the best albums wear off after a few hundred plays. We asked some Berlin music insiders for the records that kept them sane in quarantine.

“I only came across Amateur Childbirth’s Your Afterlife Is Cancelled in the last couple of weeks, but wow. Folk rock arrangements dripping with bible verses seems fitting for the oncoming apocalypse. The Pleasure Majenta are a Berlin-based post-rock / post-punk band from New Zealand, and I’ve been blasting their Who Knows What the last couple of weeks. “Swan Song” and “Vipers Den” are album standouts. They also put on an awesome live show, so catch them if you get the chance.

Balagan is another band getting me through. A staple of the Berlin garage-punk scene, it’s the perfect music to put on to retaliate when the neighbours want to vacuum for the third time this week! Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement ‘s Ambient Black Magic is an amazing album from start to finish – the name says it all. Natural relaxation tapes set to dubby basslines are the perfect thing to kick start the day. Lastly, Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou’s Anou Malane. Abdallah is an early pioneer of Niger’s music scene, and this album is an amazing example of tuareg guitar. It has an amazing groove, so put this on when the sun shines.”

– Tristan Simpson, Cashmere Radio

“My list is made up of artists that make me dream. Music is what I have to hold onto at the moment, keeping me connected and helping my worries melt and my transition into acceptance.

First, Rizitiko’s Venus Volcanism. In remembering the age of the goddess and engaging with its language, Crete is a rich place to start. Crete is the home of a snake goddess, and this project honours her powerfully. It takes folk songs traditionally sung by men and reclaims them. It is also believed that many of the songs were initially created by women.

Then there’s Vase, who is always unpredictable. I’m drawn back into an image of healing my lost memories again and again. Every project is a conceptual piece of art. I’ve had all of his vinyl releases on repeat, so I was very happy to see his new mix Slew, which is full of his original solo music and collaborations, out on C Minus.

Next up, ĀBNAMĀ from the Radiant Love 012 Mix Series, which has a release and unleash vibe! It’s the latest addition to our mix series and your chance to enjoy a world inside yourself. This mix truly is a gift for isolation (and one for the dancers).

Finally, Cryptobitch is the new solo project from exael. Isolation is confusing. I’m confused by all of the feels and this release re-calibrated me. It unified the parts of me and left me in a space more whole than before.”

– Amelia Emma Forrest, Radiant Love Collective / Performance Artist

“Now is definitely the time for the longer album format. I’ve mainly been getting stuck into some downtempo / ambient / experimental LPs – easy but beautiful listening. On strongest rotation: JFC’s Chrome De Lux, Leif’s Taraxcum, The Hers’ Tough Cunt and an overdose of The Irresistible Force’s hash smoking magnum opus It’s Tomorrow Already.

In terms of new(ish) stuff, the Tase (SVN & Takashi Wada) album on Film Recordings is a lush hit of oh-so-lonesome elevation. I’ve also been rinsing the stunning IDM compilation Still in my Arms that just came out on A Colourful Storm, plus Nick Cave’s Ghosteen, a stunning tapestry of omnipresent mourning from the master himself. Elsewhere, Urban Tribe’s future-proof The Collapse of Modern Culture has been on every second day. The post-apocalypse soundscapes felt pretty pertinent. When it’s sunny and the depressive reality recedes for a microsecond, then a little bit of Australian and New Zealand indie curated by Moopie on the I Won’t Have To Think About You compilation or some sexy Jimi Tenor musings will do the trick.”

– Jank Inc., Pace Yourself Records

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Moopie, who runs the excellent A Colourful Storm label. (Photo via Moopie.)

“I’ve been finding and rediscovering some nice downtempo stuff for when I’m chillin’ like Matt Dillon. Some records that spring to mind are Nightmares On Wax’s Mind Elevation and Chaser’s Game On! When I want something with a higher tempo, I find myself listening to a lot of Detroit sounds, revisiting labels like Los Hermanos. On top of that, Detroit’s Filthiest has also been putting out some of the most exciting new stuff I’ve heard in a while.

Given that free time is plentiful, I’ve also been going through Plank Records‘ full catalogue. There are so many weird, beautiful and breaky tech house releases in there. My favourite is the B-side of the first release Two Full Minds – perhaps the most perfect 8am club track I’ve ever heard. I’m also always on the lookout for nice trancey stuff and a couple of my most recent finds are Spiral Trance by Brainscanner and The Dawn by the legendary Tony De Vit.

Finally, we should mention that we received some fresh new sounds for our Pace Yourself label recently, and they’re sounding lush. Hopefully we’ll be able to share it with everyone soon. Keep calm, Jesus Christ will return soon.”

– Waldon Schmidt, Pace Yourself Records

“These days, you can find a good companion in United We Stream. The initiative has brought many of Berlin’s clubs, promoters, and artists together onto one shared platform.

For those who enjoy jazz and funk, Wanubalé is a good name to search for. Coming from Berlin and Potsdam, this nine-piece band smoothly fuses those styles with electronic and dub. Try “Nadra“, a highlight from their new 12-inch.

On a different note, I also have a new remix of Dossel’s “Ijexá de Fevereiro” on repeat. The original is a beautiful Brazilian composition where percussion and woodwind instruments fuse with delicate vocals. This new version by Berlin’s Àbáse gracefully combines these elements, perhaps even better than the original.

Lastly, on a sunny day with a breeze coming in through the window, the Anewal’s music is a great fit. This desert blues trio from Niger, living between Berlin and Niamey, can bring the feeling of Sahara’s sand dunes directly into your living room.”

– Dimitra Zina, Piranha Records

“In terms of sheer number of spins, Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul may as well be the anthem to my isolation. With just four songs set over 46 minutes, Hayes’ slow, deliberate and confident ownership of musical space is a serious flex, the likes of which soul had never seen before. A pristine record, his 19-minute version of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” floors me every time.

On a totally different vibe, I’ve had a little bit of a metal resurgence in the last few weeks. Prong’s Force Fed fills my thrash quota pretty tightly, while Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone is a scuzzy, stoned roller. Dirtier than Josh Homme’s bong water and twice as thick, trust me when I say that it’s a vibe. 

Brigitte Fontaine’s Comme à la radio finds the French singer in the capable company of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. It’s one of those albums that could haunt you forever. Haunting, however, is by no means a bad thing and among the many ghosts that occupy my headspace, none can claim as much real estate as Arthur Russell. His Calling Out Of Context compilation is a personal favourite, but the same goes for all his work. Flawless. 

For me, the most important thing I can do for myself in quarantine is not let go of my sense of fun. I personally like to blast pop tunes in the morning until the early afternoon, at which point I very soberly blast lo-fi rarities to keep my neighbours up-to-date with my expanding tastes. Records like Slender’s Time On Earth, Neptune’s Gong Lake, Love Child’s Know It’s Alright and The Kiwi Animal’s Mercy have been particularly effective at stirring the curtain twitchers up to a gentle simmer. I recommend you experiment with it and find your own rhythm, because no two neighbours are the same! 

Seriously, though, this is all about staying healthy, happy and safe, and the best way to do that is to stay at home. Ultimately, your happiness will rest on the security of your income, the health of your loved ones and your ownership of Vera’s Take Me To The Bridge.”

– Damien Cummings, Music Editor, Exberliner