Cologne Craze: The best of c/o pop 2013
Coming to Cologne for ℅ pop, an annual music convention and festival, was an electrifying experience. Not only because Germany and its culture are experiencing a worldwide hype, but also because Cologne is an open-minded, easy-going city serving as the birthplace of electronic music in the 50s.
My week started off with a panel on Global Music Blogs including Tonspur. Meeting and talking to people like Uri Waizel, who is running the Panamérika blog from Mexico City, or Munbir Chawla, head of the recently-started platform Wild City in New Delhi, I learned that there is something small but powerful happening in the world of global music journalism. Tonspur’s goal to become international outlet of locally engaged, travel-savvy musical storytellers seems closer than ever.
Talking music, the Meridian Brothers from Bogotá probably topped the list of all performances throughout the week. I’m proud to say Tonspur was one of the first blogs to feature them. With their totally crazy electric sound carpets, transforming the traditional Colombian cumbia sound into something completely new that can not be described easily (maybe like a hallucination of punk, or a space odyssey with chipmunks), dressed in glooming satin shirts and talking with the audience in enigmas, they made people first wonder, then dance.
The total opposite was also easy to find. Edna Would, a 24-year old UK-born singer now based in Cologne, performed her Euro-trash debut “I’m alive” to an enthusiastic crowd at “Zum Scheuen Reh” (“The Shy Deer”), using a cheap, distorted PA for a not-so-well performance, hiding behind sunglasses and just singing her song twice because it’s the only one she has so far.
Also trashy, but in a more successful way, 31-year old Swiss singer Dagobert presented himself at the men’s-clothing-slash-record-store Monsieur Courbet. Looking into is sleeky, unimpressed face, at his Nosferatu outfit and a glooming sign with his name in the background, people didn’t know wether to laugh or to actually identify with his simple but powerful synth-lullabies, played from an iPod and sung over live.
Dagobert is experiencing a pop cultural hype among Germany’s hipster media ever since his story broke early this year. A story of a guy without money, a job or a degree, having written 100 songs in a small hut in the Swiss mountains where he lived for 5 years, about 75 of them for a woman he desperately fell in love with during a short stint in Berlin.
Lullaby singer from the mountains
A few of those songs finally found the way on an EP, but are still mainly the way Dagobert recorded them up in the mountains on an old PC, using Cubase and a cheap synthesizer . There is no way to describe him rather than he does on his website: “Schulzensänger aus den Bergen“, “lullaby singer from the mountains”. His kitsch sound is as far away from the German Schlager (a cheap and cheesy, but successful folkloric pop) as from highly praised young German indie acts like Sizarr, whose producer Markus Ganter also gave birth to Dagobert’s album.
After watching his performance that included dropping his mic on the floor after every song (it belonged to the store, his was broken already), singing powerful with his totally untrained voice and staring hypnosis-like over the audience, I met Dagobert for an hour-long talk in the hostel he stayed during his two days in Cologne before going to Hannover, where a TV station promised him to arrange a meeting with Klaus Meine, head of Deutschrock band The Scorpions (mainly known for “Wind of Change“, the hymn for the fall of the Berlin wall) and Dagobert’s biggest idol.
I experienced Dagobert as a polite, calm guy that doesn’t give much about anything that happens in the world or around him, aiming to continue living his non-materialistic outlaw life style – even if he is now running inside the corporate wheel and has a girlfriend waiting for him in Berlin (who doesn’t share his music taste). Dagobert has dozens of songs ready and continues writing and composing, so he and his unique sound will be around for a while.
On the DJ side of things, Cologne has the fame of being the birthplace of Electronic music in general. The parties during ℅ pop were experiences on it own, dancing in completely packed clubs to heavy basslines. The biggest electronic party marked the 20 year anniversary of the somewhat legendary electronic music label Kompakt, with many of their former staffers being involved with the ℅ pop. Cologne-based duo COMA was only one of the many acts worth lining up at the front door.
To me, the best DJ gig happened at Club Roxy a day later, though. The Roxy is a cosy, red-lit room with a stuffed wild pork on the wall and heavy bass boom boxes on the floor. Matias Aguayo, a Berlin-based DJ/producer with Chilean roots, playing worldwide with a strong focus on Latin America, put on a fantastic session including live singing and tracks from his brand new album “The Visitor“. Besides him, Chile’s Diegors and Scottish DJs Optimo made the crowd go wild, and Aguayo himself could be found dancing in front of the turntables hours after his set.
The glooming finish of the ℅ pop came from Efterklang, a 4-men Danish group well known in the world of electronic acoustic music. Efterklang combines some of the best multiinstrumentalists I’ve seen in a sound and voice opera. Efterklang not only filled up the Cologne Philharmonic Hall with about 1500 seats, but also integrated the environment into the performance, including playing the huge stationary organ and climbing up the staircases backstage while singing unplugged. Singer Mø, known for Tonspur readers since South by South West, completed the sophisticated Danish influence on ℅ pop.
This weeks playlist combines the best of Cologne’s best fest after carneval – enjoy!
Story by Felix Zeltner
Artwork by krashkid