Music & clubs

Critic’s top 5 gigs for December

Our music critic's top picks of the month! Don't miss the gothic synth and forbod­ing lyricism of American duo Boy Harsher at Kesselhaus on Dec 2, anarcho-punk band Belgrado at Urban Spree on Dec 7, Detriti Mini Festival, and more!

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Photo by Nedda Afsari. Catch Boy Harsher at Kesselhaus, Prenzlauer Berg, on Dec 2, 20:00, or Festsaal Kreuzberg, Kreuzberg, on Dec 3, 20:30.
In Germany, whether you observe Christmas or not, you would be hard-pressed to forget the festivities. Nobody does Ge­mütlichkeit quite like the Germans, but while we may all indulge in a Glühwein or two, this is still Berlin, and the sound is dark electro. EBM, darkwave, minimal synth; there’s plenty of nuance to the genres that cropped up in the post-punk fallout, and Berlin is probably the best city in the world to hear them. Right now, the city is at the centre of a revival of a diverse family of melancholic, stripped back, synth-driven sound that started in the late 1970s and peaked in popularity in the 1980s before being transmuted into a more homogenous form of electronica a decade later. When you boil all of that down, what’s left is something inherently cold, dark and sexy. It may not be very Christmas, but that’s the way we like it. By the end of the year, the Ameri­can pair Boy Harsher will have played four gigs in Berlin in 2019 alone, such is the appetite in this city for their sound. Their music is a dense fog of gothic synth and breathless, forbod­ing lyricism. Live, the performance is akin to an out of body experience, a bewildering and erotic masterstroke of musical aesthetics which rightly places the band at the forefront of the darkwave revival. Where Boy Harsher are steamy, Belgrado are undeniably cold. The anarcho-punk band tells stories of abject disaffection with startling clar­ity. Their essence is one of artistic rebellion that would be at home in New York’s Club 57 back in the late 1970s. The Barcelona based quart­Wet’s anachronistic Bauhaus stylings and coldwave sound should be jar­ring, but somehow still seamlessly fit into the contemporary canon. When the nights draw in, head to the Detriti Mini Festival for an extended evening of EBM and raw electro courtesy of Parole E Azioni, Black Sun Dreamer, and Film Maker, purveyors of all things dark and loud. The one-night fest is a collabo­ration between Detriti Records and Herzschlag, two modern institutions in the brand of dystopian, club-not-club esoterica that is growing di­rectly out of the Berlin underground. With this kind of line-up, you can expect the music to be towards the heavier end of the spectrum, but this is about as nightclub-orientated as it gets, and if you like the style, you would be lucky to find a better night out this month. In a different vein, Kompromat is the collaborative project between techno producer Vitalic and Rebeka Warrior, whose solo output falls somewhere in the realm of chanson. While both enjoy independent suc­cess, this constellation finds the pair in uncharted territory. While taking cues from classic Berlin industrial music, Kompromat have certainly taught the old dog a thing or two, think Einstürzende Neubauten lay­ered with aching vocals and unex­pectedly delicate melodies. Finally, Qual is the solo project of William Maybelline. Already one half of the influential darkwave band Lebanon Hanover, Maybelline’s mu­sic is about as mournful as it gets. If Lebanon Hanover is a lament against the wretched Northern English in­dustrial towns that shaped him, then Qual is the natural result of Maybel­line’s move to Berlin. It’s formidable music, aggressive and arcane and by all accounts a pretty perfect Berlin Christmas carol. Boy Harsher | Dec 2, 20:00 Kesselhaus, Prenzlauer Berg, Dec 3, 20:30 Festsaal Kreuzberg, Kreuzberg Belgrado | Dec 7, 20:00 Urban Spree, Friedrichshain Detriti Mini Festival | Dec 13, 21:00 Urban Spree, Friedrichshain Kompromat | Dec 17, 20:00 Kantine am Berghain, Friedrichshain Qual | Dec 27, 21:00 Urban Spree, Friedrichshain