There’s more to Berlin nightlife than techno. One crew that’s trying new things is local outfit Live From Earth, a multi-disciplinary artist collective popularly known for releasing the works of German-language cloud rap sensation Yung Hurn. Their new party series En-Core is dedicated to exploring hardcore, gabber and other extreme sounds in a context similar to what’s being pushed by Paris’ Casual Gabberz and Poland’s WIXAPOL S.A. We sent TEB-contributor Claire Mouchemore to investigate a recent event at Arena Club.
Last week, multidisciplinary Berlin collective Live From Earth returned with the second installment of En-Core, their party series that’s trying to inject the Berlin club scene with the wild sounds of hardcore and gabber.
In this edition, Paris’ Sentimental Rave and Milan’s Gabber Eleganza—alongside LFE’s own DJ Bangkok and No Shade graduate 41issa—took over Arena Club to provide ravers with nine hours of hardcore, gabber, trance and nosebleed techno. It offered a brief-yet-inspiring alternative vision of what clubbing in the Hauptstadt could be like.
Upon arrival to Arena, ravers quickly shed beanies and hats to reveal a sea of shaved heads, ponytail-undercuts, mohawks and mullets dyed in a variety of neon colors. Jackets and winter-layers were hastily tossed into a pile in favor of transparent belted cargo pants and cropped mesh tank tops, the distinctive uniform that gabber ravers were known for.
“You are my possession. I am your obsession. No rules involved,” commanded a voice from the speakers. Sentimental Rave was playing The Dominatrix’s techno-infused 1992 hardcore track “Possession”. This set the tone for the evening ahead.
On the dancefloor, few had drinks in their hands, but somehow the line for the bathroom was always 10 deep. There was a sense of camaraderie, which went even beyond the Berlin norm, and maybe that was because of the particular niche appeal of this music. A fellow dancer signalled to my feet and then to his. We were sporting the same pair of Nike Air Max sneakers—the perfect attire for a gabber rave.
Almost everyone was trying their best at hakken dancing, the Dutch dance associated with gabber and hardcore. It was clear that not everyone had done it before, but even the ones who didn’t know still tried to watch, take note and mimic the movements of others. Others climbed up onto whatever podiums they could claim. The rest danced back and forth in small steps, dancing in a standard techno style made frantic by the music’s speed, which wasn’t shy of 200 BPM.
A faint smoke machine fired every now and again, and it seemed that the idea was to keep things as dark as possible, providing low visibility besides the odd flashing light and a laser that projected the lineup onto the clubs sweaty walls. When the lasers died down, and the room went dark, the only light that could be seen was the redlining behind the deck and the lit cigarettes dotted amongst the chain-smoking crowd.
Slurping sound effects and static were used to blend tracks. Demonic speaking intervals summoned ravers to crawl closer to the front of the dance floor. There Sentimental Rave’s hype woman stood atop the DJ booth rocking back and forth in four-inch platform sneakers to crank up the already wild crowd.
As the night progressed, Sentimental Rave layered her harder selections with trance tunes by Paul Webster and Jeffrey Van Ham. The crowd responded accordingly to the unmistakable customary rave samples and intoxicating build-ups as they threw their elasticated bodies around the floor, zealously shuffling from side to side.
Gabber Eleganza was up next, and he launched into his set with a barrage of hardcore drum and bass. His mixing didn’t allow time to think. He jumped from one track to the next: ambient into grime into dubstep into breaks into jungle into gabber. Genres appeared and dissolved like hallucinations. Through it all, though, was a focus on Dutch music. He banged out EDMX’s understated acid rave cut “153 Mission” and DJ Ophidian’s nu-school hardcore track “Only One”. This was a set that required stamina—like an extreme sprint as opposed to the long drawn out techno marathons Berlin is used to.
Sweat-laden bodies moved left to right. Arms flailed in the air recklessly trying to grasp or search for something. Exhausted dancers adjusted their Nike caps to wipe the sweat collecting across their foreheads. Press-stud Adidas tracksuit pants became unclasped to reveal more breathable garments underneath, in the form of mesh drawstring sports shorts.
As dancers grew weary and began to fade the DJs lured them back in with renditions of cult classics and familiar vocals. There was a gabber refix of Kelis’ “Milkshake”, a hardcore variant of Skepta’s “That’s Not Me” and even an edit of Beck’s “Loser”.
Now, almost a year on from CTM Festival’s hardcore and gabber party at Berghain, it’s interesting to see the ways in which this resurgence has played out in Berlin. With two parties under their belt, Live From Earth’s En-Core series seems like it’s set to connect Berlin with similar movements elsewhere in Europe and America. And locally, it’s doing that in a creative way free from the constraints of genre purism.