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Enter Mordorkore: Berlin’s debut hardcore fantasy rave

Dungeon synth, Tarot, medieval chamber music and memes, industrial music, bardcore, Enya, ritualistic performance art, cosplay, and LARP culture come together in an out-of-this-world extravaganza.

Imagine a dance floor where goblins, faeries and mages gather together to make merry, raise their goblets to the sky and set forth on adventures into the unknown. What seems like a fantastical wonderland in a metaverse far, far away, is reality at Mordorkore–a new party series and collective in Berlin that explores medieval fantasy sounds and aesthetics through the medium of fast dance music, costumes, and performance art.

Anyone catching up on pop culture through a perpetual loop of TikTok doom scrolling will know this: peep at the wardrobes of Caroline Polachek and oklouDanny L Harle’s Harlecore and Ange Halliwell’s The Weel of Time (one of EB’s favourite records of 2020) and you’ll see plenty of examples revealing fantasy core as a defining aesthetic of our time. 

It makes sense, given the state of the world. If climate change didn’t already trigger a desire to escape into the fantastical, utopian and adventurous possibilities of fantasy worlds, surely a pandemic would. Mordorkore’s inaugural rave was set to take place in March 2020, when the pandemic threw a spanner in the works.

“Everyone’s talking about the Apocalypse, we’re ruled over by neo-feudal robber barons, and we’re living through an actual global plague. Whether we like it or not, modernity is appearing more and more medieval,” they tell me via email.

“The medieval fantasy aesthetic provides very easily graspable and diverse archetypes that can be played with, modes of behaving and presenting oneself that lie outside hetero-normative gender binaries and established systems of power.” As they delved deeper into these areas, they found other DJs, performers and artists exploring similar themes and aesthetics, who immediately understood the concept, and were eager to assimilate it within their creative practice.

Organised by a collective of DJs and performance artists working at the intersection of hard dance, queer nerd culture and LARPing, Mordorkore took place in August under the theme Mordorkore Unchained.

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The medieval fantasy aesthetic provides very easily graspable and diverse archetypes that can be played with, modes of behaving and presenting oneself that lie outside hetero-normative gender binaries and established systems of power.

Mordorkore’s inaugural rave brought together performers like photographer Maansi Jain, 3d designer Tabitha Swanson, DJ HOT BiTCH and DJ Opium Hum.

Both of the party collectives that came together to make up what is now Mordorkore–Butters and BLADEBEXXX–were formed, at least in part, to promote innovative approaches to hardcore and related high-BPM electronic dance music and organise parties catering to diverse, but predominantly queer Berlin-based party people.

“The pure euphoria, fast pace and power of hardcore, combined with these often absurd fantastical and cartoonish elements; it’s just an intuitively great mixture, and it set off different trains of thoughts for us,” the collective says.  “We started to joke that the hakken was the peasant jig of the contemporary era.”

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The hakken is the peasant jig of the contemporary era.

“There is also an important overlap between these areas and issues of identity and performativity. Parties create spaces in which people can, on the one hand, explore, express and develop different parts of themselves, and on the other escape the more mundane, repetitive and repressive aspects of contemporary life.” For Mordorkore, the medieval fantasy aesthetic, along with hard, fast and fun dance music, provide very easily graspable and diverse archetypes that can be played with, modes of behaving and presenting oneself that lie outside hetero-normative gender binaries and established systems of power.

The Mordorkore collective insists its concept isn’t predetermined and fixed, it isn’t just a mash-up of medieval sounds and fast dance music or a dress-up theme. “Mordor doesn’t have to mean LOTRs and -kore doesn’t have to mean hardcore. Rather it is a set of very diverse and intersecting aesthetics and sensibilities, that people can draw on and that resonate very differently with different people and that provide a sort of constantly evolving framework in which people can find and develop their own characters and forms of play. Its an unwritten rule book through which people can be supported to set out on their own quests.”

Keep up with Mordorkore’s next steps by following their socials. All photographs were provided by Pax and Mordorkore. Caroline Whiteley is a writer and editor at EB. Artwork by Ha My Le Thi.

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Published October 08, 2021. Words by Caroline Whiteley, photos by Pax.