CTM Festival 2018: What You Need To See At Berlin’s Best Avant-Garde Event

CTM Festival

A guide to CTM Festival is all but necessary when you consider the scale of the multi-day Berlin experimental extravaganza. From Friday, January 26 through Sunday, February 4, it will bring an avant-garde counterpoint to many of the city’s most popular clubs. This includes everything from a gabber night at Berghain to a performance by The Holly Herndon Ensemble (pictured above). It’s an overwhelming amount of dates and artists to keep track of. Luckily, we were able to enlist the help of Born In Flamez, one of the festival’s curators (who was featured on EB.tv here), to guide us through this year’s must-do experiences.

“I’ve always admired CTM for its strong vision and courage, because it features cutting-edge music without compromise. The team behind the festival is dedicated to creating a special event that is far outside the normative. It features cutting-edge artists from countries that are on the margins of the dance music industry’s focus. This includes people like Zuli from Egypt, Hyph11e from China, Sisso from Uganda or WIXAPOL S.A. from Poland.

It was important for us with this year’s topic, ‘turmoil’, to create a festival that covers the many different musical reactions to the increasingly alien world that surrounds us. As the statement on our website reads, ‘Uneasy times demand uneasy music.'”

Friday, Jan 26: Caustic/Cohesion  with Celestial Trax, Uta, RamZi, Elena Colombi and more (CTM Festival Opening) @ Berghain

“Celestial Trax recently dropped Nothing Is Real, an absolute masterpiece, for the Purple Tape Pedigree label. Alongside Ziur’s U Feel Anything, it might be my favorite album of 2017. Seldom have I heard and seen an artist take such a unique and visionary new approach to electronic club music. His album bursts with original ideas that spread from almost Krautrock-y passages to current deconstructed club percussions. I’ve been a fan of his hyperreal beats for a while, like his productions for Quay Dash and Orlando Volcano, but this recent work has really topped it all. Also, don’t miss Uta, RamZi and Elena Colombi.”

Friday, Jan 26: CTM Festival presents Uncanny Valleys Of A Possible Future with Lawrence Lek and more @ Kunstraum Kreuzberg Bethanien

“The CTM exhibition has truly outdone itself this year. If I could recommend only one piece, I would recommend Lawrence Lek’s Geomancer, which plays as a part of this exhibition at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien.

Also, if you’re into light installations like I am, the Skalar installation at Kraftwerk is an absolute must-see. It opens on January 27 and it’s on until February 4. Check out information about that here.”

Saturday, Jan 27: CTM Festival presents Designed Disarray/Happy As Hell with Jlin, Antwood, Paul Woolford and more @ Club Ost

“This is really a typical night for the festival. Where else in the world could you see a lineup that includes footwork legend Jlin, post-digital sound design god Antwood, a raw punk band like Cuntroaches, a digital hardcore hero like Hanin Elias, a breaks-infused house legend like Paul Woolford (a.k.a. Special Request) and an infernal noise duo like Naked? All those sounds will be united by the crisp new sound system in Club OST’s concrete temple.”

Sunday, Jan 28: CTM Festival presents Amenra @ Festsaal Kreuzberg

“How could we comment on the world’s ‘turmoil’ without showcasing a wall of sound made by guitars? Post-metal Band Amenra’s show is nearly sold out, and that’s for a good reason. It’s time to let out and transcend your inner rage through a lot of tears, sweat and neck pain. The show is supported by Scott Kelly, legendary member of Neurosis, who will show off his introspective, sparse and at times despondent acoustic guitar project to counterbalance ‘the pull of darkness.'”

Monday, Jan 29: Ernest Berk – The Complete Expressionist with Rashad Becker, Pan Daijing and more @ HAU 2

“Don’t miss this homage to multitalented artist Ernest Berk (1909 – 1993). He was an electronic composer, choreographer, dance therapist and pedagogue, but also a strong leftist political activist and Buddhist practitioner. This evening will feature performances and interpretations of Berk’s themes by Rashad Becker, Pan Daijing, avant-garde Japanese noise group A and lauded German choreographer Christoph Winkler. This is going to be a very high-brow event, but it’ll still also be fun food-for-thought (and for your ears).”

Tuesday, Jan 30: CTM Festival presents Persist  with Coil’s Drew McDowall, Klein, Olaf Nicolai and Theo Nabicht and more @ Berghain

“A completely different approach to the exploration of the festival’s theme is happening on January 30 thanks to Hyperdub’s new star Klein and her syncopated dissections of R&B, gospel and cut up electronics. On the same night, big-name conceptual artist Olaf Nicolai will showcase his In The Woods There Is A Bird piece. It melds sounds from demonstrations, riots and political rallies into an ‘urgent sonic essay about power and powerlessness, authority and protest.’ He will be accompanied by clarinetist Theo Nabicht. This is an extremely intense piece, and I don’t recommend it for the faint of heart. It will be followed by Coil’s Drew McDowall revisiting his version of Time Machines, a legendary late 20th-century drone and ritual music masterpiece.”

Thursday, Feb 1: CTM Festival presents On Edge with  Bliss Signal (Mumdance and Wife), Perera Elsewhere and more @ Berghain

“I’m especially happy that we could get Bliss Signal for CTM. It’s a duo comprised of bass-heavy UK producer Mumdance and electronics-via-post-metal wizard Wife. I can’t wait to hear how their hardcore guitar noise project sounds live. That headliner supported by the punk rock attitude of Swan Meat and the politically-infused trap of Violence ought to make for a good night. If this is too dark for your tastebuds: DJ Champion and MC Serious, Jason Hou and Perera Elsewhere will also be on hand to serve up some fun wobbly garage and filthy deconstructed grime bangers.”

Thursday, Feb 1: CTM Festival presents FIVE Berlin/Embryogenesis with Rashaad Newsome, Lotic and Roderick George @ HAU 2

“The double performance of FIVE and Embryogenesis is going to blur the lines between high and popular culture as well as movement and sound. If contemporary dance isn’t for you, but you wouldn’t miss a ball, this night just might do the trick. Rashaad Newsome will bring together a makeshift orchestra comprised of NY-based MC Princess Mami Precious, baritone opera singer Justin Austin, five local musicians and five vogueing dancers who will interpret the sounds but also perform their own element of femme voguing.

The performance also includes video game controllers and computer mappings that will visualize the moves. The result creates a multidimensional exploration of movement and sound. Preceding FIVE, club accelerationist Lotic and classically trained American dancer Roderick George will team up to present Embryogenesis, their new collaborative piece. Imagine classical dance moves colliding and merging with Lotic’s metallic dance floor blowouts. Next level shit!”

Friday, Feb 2: CTM Festival presents Adrenalin/Endorphin  with Kablam, Haj300, Marc Arcadipane, Darkraver, WIXAPOL S.A. and more @ Berghain

“Nothing is a more immediate musical answer to ‘turmoil’ than gabber’s recent revival. For our gabber night, we invited different generations together for one evening. We explore the current revival through club fringe artists like Kablam, Killbourne, Haj300 and Hdmirror. We also invited originators from the Dutch scene like Panic and Darkraver as well as Frankfurt’s Marc Arcadipane (a.k.a. The Mover). We also invited Poland’s “post-shame” ravers, WIXAPOL S.A., to bring their prankster sense of humor and 200 BPM sounds to the holy halls of ‘serious techno.’ I can’t wait to see those worlds collide.

Upstairs at Panorama Bar we have Bampa Pana and Makaveli from Uganda who have created something akin to trance and gabber in their “Sounds of Sisso” collab for Nyege Nyege Tapes.”

Saturday, Feb 3: Corpus Nil: Eingeweide with Marco Donnarumma @ HAU 2

“This year’s festival has a strong focus on the development of artificial intelligence and its use in music, dance, performance and everyday life. There are many nights revolving around the theme, but none will be as physical an experience as this one.

Wearing an AI robotic prosthesis that has a particular behavior and sensibility towards its wearer, Marco Donnarumma will perform a ritualistic choreography of movement, sound and light. The dancer and prosthesis eventually access a new identity as they influence one another, questioning ‘passive’ intelligent software, the role of AI in regulating human bodies and the trans-humanist ideal.”

Saturday, Feb 3: The Holly Herndon Ensemble @ Festsaal Kreuzberg

“This special performance by Holly Herndon will make use of the entire space with different performances by individual members of her ensemble in the room. Herndon’s performance itself will also explore themes of AI and frontiers (technological, geographical and otherwise) while celebrating community in keeping with the commending of alternative types of family and kin, and endorsing hope in the face of despondency.”

Saturday, Feb 3: New Turf  with RoxXan, Hitmakerchix and more @ Yaam

“This night is very special to me. I am just going to shake my limbs so hard—not only when hoarse-voiced grime MC RoxXan hits the mic fighting for gender equality in a genre harshly dominated by male figures. We’ll also have Hitmakerchinx who dances for Rihanna and co-founded the dancehall-derived flex dance music. His dancers will hit the floor. His “Shades And Monsters”, which came out on Night Slugs and Fade To Mind in September 2017, is just straight up banging fun. Also, don’t miss out on Nihiloxica from Uganda. It’s an austere and dark collaborative effort with four percussionists, a drummer and a keyboardist playing two analog synths.”

Sunday, Feb 4: Phase Out  with Klitclique, DJ Storm, Pixelord, Flava D and more @ Schwuz

“Staying with the more humorous side of this year’s festival for a bit, I must introduce Klitclique to the world. Their banging feminist rap anthems and performative approach will have you questioning your world views while simultaneously laughing out tears. In 2018, I want them to be president. This night also features South African performance duo Faka, Metalheadz legend DJ Storm, Pixelord from Moscow and Garage queen Flava D. Expect lots of drunk hugs and tears plus a hell of a last dance.”

For more information about CTM Festival 2018, read our review of the 2016 edition

Read more: Here’s what you missed at Poland’s avant-underground Unsound festival