The relationship between Modeselektor and Berlin is one filled with giving and taking. Berlin’s eclectic soundscapes, such as punk, hip-hop and techno, have influenced Modeselektor in countless ways, allowing the duo to venture into a melting pot of genres, and eventually leading them to develop their own captivatingly eclectic and scene-defining sound. Also being on the constant lookout for new groundbreaking music and talents, such as Oval Space support act Catnapp, Modeselektor have paved their own way to success by taking from and giving back to their surroundings and community. Adding an adrenaline-rich and humorous nature to their unforgettably boisterous shows for over two decades, Modeselektor are full blown icons in the underground scene, and their next appearance at Oval Space is the only chance to catch their live show in an outstanding, intimate setting.
As Modeselektor’s live tour prepares for its only intimate live show in London at one of its most established electronic music venues, we look at their recent interview with Crack magazine and Sonos UK. In the interview, Modeselektor’s Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary sit down with Tresor and Berlin Atonal founder Dimitri Hegemann, to discuss tracks and sounds reminiscent of Berlin’s early days as an underground hub. Below are 5 tracks that most encapsulate Modeselektor’s and Berlin’s past, present, and future soundscapes – soundscapes they themselves have nurtured into the globally renowned music scene that Berlin is today.
Released on Tresor’s label in 1991 alongside Jeff Mills’ Hypnotist, this track is not only one that ravages dancefloors anywhere, but also one that is close to the British crew of ravers that used to live in Berlin in that period, as Gilles Peterson and Norman Jay spinned their acid jazz cuts in the upstairs room in Tresor. Almost three decades later, many still recall DJ Uwe spinning two of these at the same time in Tresor’s basement – a legendary occasion. An ever-so important record that has helped define techno and welcomed young Modeselektor into the raving scene, the track is an indelible highlight in the annals of electronic music.
A defining track in Robert Hood’s long-standing career, The Rhythm of Vision is one of those tracks that compels listeners to the dancefloor. Decked with fast-paced pulverizing drums layered by sinister and eclectic soundscapes that swivel between spacy, rubbery, and tough and edgy, the track is an old-school masterpiece that still hasn’t lost its innovative and inventive touch. Released on NovaMute in 1995 on the Tresor 3 album alongside Jeff Mills and Maurizio, the cut is an undying celebration of Detroit techno and one that has influenced the German underground like no other.
Maurizio’s IDM and acid infused techno wonder Ploy is another timeless gem, especially as militant Detroit techno crew Underground Resistance mixes this version. It’s an undying classic that the 3 Berlin icons bring up in their conversation to recount the old-school vibes that transpired across Tresor’s budding, yet already multi-faceted scene. Two of the many common faces of the time were Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus (the duo that make up Maurizio), two extremely well known, pioneering figures in underground techno and, just like Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, a constant presence at Tresor’s early days. For Modeselektor, the track is the anthem of Tresor’s basement.
Released in 1993, the IDM track is a unique, playful and avant-garde release for its time. Combining a wide-ranging palette of sounds and percussions into one colourful and bubbly soundscape, the track was revelatory for the three Berlin scene head-honchos, who had just started roaming about the German capital’s innumerous raving sites. “A fascinating stream of tapping sounds, hisses, bubbles, bumps, rattles, squeaks, whistles, moans, sighs, twitters, clanks, muffles explosion and unmuffles explosions” as is written on the inner cover, the album epitomizes the blistering scene of the unregulated Berlin of the time. Effervescent and chaotic in a stripped back fashion, the 1990s rave scene, just like µ Ziq Theme and Modeselektor’s upcoming live show at Oval Space, withholds many experimental sounds and surprises.
French DJ Berg Jäär is one whose style is heavily influenced by the old-school Berlin vibes of the early 90s. Adding a very characteristic sinister exoticism to the classic hammering percussions that burgeon from broken beat to outright techno, Jäär’s Oil, released in 2018 on his Silo EP for Planet Rhythm UK, is one that has been making waves recently amongst colleagues and audiences alike. Evidence of music’s healing powers, and reminiscent of times where the underground scene was capable of turning people’s views upside down, the track pushes Dimitri Hegemann and Modeselektor to recount the many times where racist people, confronted with the all-inclusive nature of the scene, suddenly changed their hate-filled opinions to become more accepting. It was this, in the end, which allowed for East and West Germany to reconcile culturally as well as physically. Pushing this ethos forward for over two decades, Modeselektor have done it all to bring cultures and genres of all kinds together through their music – an old-school Berlin attitude that still remains in present days.