Music

Berlin Wall of Sound

Ellen Allien Embodies the Sound of Her City

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If techno was born in Detroit and house music in Chicago, why has Berlin become the epicenter of club music? According to Ellen Allien, it was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent availability of cheap venue space for rent on the suddenly open east side of the city. With a swell of creative youth itching for an outlet, and the emergence of a new style of music specifically engineered for partying, a scene started bubbling up and a community took hold. "Electronic music united East and West," she says.

Allien was born in Berlin. She lived in London for a year in the late 1980s, but quickly became homesick, luckily not before being exposed to acid house, which sparked an interest in dance music. She returned to Berlin with enthusiasm at a time when there was exactly one club catering to the new style of electronic music. Allien started DJing there and at other venues as they sprung up. She also started her own radio show, popular club night, and successful record label, BPitch Control. Fast approaching its 10-year anniversary, the label is prolific—almost 200 releases in a decade—yet still true to its original plan to represent a diversity of styles.

Seemingly based on Allien's early model for DJing—crossing genres to bridge gaps in the crowd—BPitch releases range from lovely, quiet tracks with wispy vocals to peak-hour electro-beat bangers, and while the songs may be seriously divergent in tone, the BPitch Control roster is carefully filtered to convey the distinct sound of Berlin.

Allien's own sound has changed over the years. "As a producer, music is a playback of my emotions and moods. I tease them out of me with alternating technical devices," she says. Her first LP, the very dance floor-oriented Stadtkind, evokes the feeling of being inside a club while listening to it, which is fitting considering the album is a dedication to her true love, the city of Berlin. The recently released full-length Sool is more mature and introspective than her previous work. The sound is deep, experimental, and ambient throughout while still delivering some of the driving dance beats that people expect from the dynamic producer.

In addition to her large pile of solo releases, Allien has also collaborated with an impressive list of musicians including Apparat, Mochipet, and T.Raumschmiere. She is currently touring with labelmate Sascha Funke in support of her new mix, Boogiebytes, Vol. 4, a collection of BPitch Control tracks. Funke, who has the coolest name in all of European techno, has been getting well-deserved praise for his recently released Mango, a thoughtful and lush album that, like Sool, is a more serious, grown-up take on the club sound.

With their solid new releases and ever-growing popularity, Allien and Funke are at the top of their game. Having experimented and evolved in tandem with the German political system and cultural environment, their sound is refined and minimal, with a certain groove that keeps people moving on a dance floor. They embody the essence of Berlin, a once struggling and conflicted city that now finds itself on the international "it" list.

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