Friday, 29 May 2009

Lost and Sound

I've been to readings in a few odd places: in a bakery, a nut shop (as in almonds and pistachios, not the mentally ill), perched on cushions in a Mongolian yurt on Potsdamer Platz. In general, though, the only difference to an event in a bookshop or a library is the setting. Last night was different.

Tobias Rapp was reading from his book Lost and Sound - Berlin, Techno und der Easyjetset. The venue seemed conventional enough at first sight - a low building with a bar along one wall and rows of chairs set out, a few sofas against the walls. Only the lighting was rather unusual for a reading, casting magenta, yellow and cyan shadows on the book I sat reading demurely before things kicked off. What was different was the audience, because the reading took place in one of the book's settings: the techno club Berghain (or its "canteen", to be precise).

I'm not quite sure what it was. Maybe the beer bottles people were swigging at, or the mobile phones ringing intermittently. Maybe the low-level chatting going on throughout, or the less than subtle glances passed to and fro, indicating that at least some of the audience were very much on the pull. Maybe it was their clothes, or the fact that many of them had perfectly maintained but oddly pallid faces. But there were plenty of signs that these were not your average reading attenders: they were party people.

Berlin has a reputation, Rapp writes, as a techno mecca. Gone are the days of the overly cheesified Love Parade. Now Berlin has opened its arms to embrace the Easyjetset - hip young people from all over Europe and further afield who fly in cheap for a long weekend, picking up tips for where to go via electronic word of mouth. And one of those hot destinations is the Berghain, with its very own mythology of unfettered sexual and chemical hedonism. Yes, in that order.

The book is excellent reading. Rapp combines solid knowledge and research - for which he took a four-month sabbatical from his then job as pop editor for the taz - with an evangelical passion for the music and the atmosphere he writes about. He intersperses facts, theories, background information and interviews with ecstatic narrative passages, describing nights out in Berlin's various techno clubs throughout the week.

And the intelligent structure is mirrored in the book's ideas. Tobias Rapp thinks outside the box. He looks at clubs as an economic factor for Berlin, not just raising the sexiness quotient but bringing in hard cash. He goes into the tenuous and brittle links with emancipative politics, particularly in the case of last year's local-level referendum over whether to build a media office complex on the banks of the Spree, where a number of the clubs of the moment are located. He investigates the effects of the club culture on sexuality - but deliberately sidesteps the subject of drugs for fear of the book being labelled, as he told us last night.

The reading was entertaining, not just as an excursion into a subculture I'm entirely unfamiliar with. Rapp seemed rather nervous; perhaps this knowledgeable audience was the ultimate test for him. But he warmed up after a while and had us smirking with frequent asides and made up words (mäandrieren! acknowledgen! valider Einwand!). There was a certain amount of out-nerding going on between him and the audience - but my regular readers will know I'm a sucker for nerdism, even when I don't understand what people are talking about. The only down side was that in such a fast-evolving culture, some of last summer's facts are now outdated. But a little bird told me there's a chance the book might be translated into English - surely another perfect project for Tim Mohr...


Jeffrey Collins: Painter said...

Any chance you'd like to sell the hardcover of this book if you still have it?

kjd said...

Hi Jeffrey,

I don't think it came out in hardback, but I still want to keep my copy.