Step 1 / Berlin
Perhaps the most exceptional compilation to emerge in the past five years, these six yellow cardboard sleeves contain artists with undeniable influence on pop music, and the sounds within are manifold and magnetic. Co-produced by French cultural institution La Gaîté Lyrique and record label Naïve, City Sounds, Step 1 / Berlin is a mesmerising traipse through the artistically embracing and musically prolific German metropolis.
The mention of ‘Berlin’ drums up images of black turtlenecks and four-on-the-floor electronic beats. As the liner notes mention, this is largely the fault of the techno club mecca Berghain. Disc five doesn’t shy away from this genre, but the remaining five discs dispel this generalisation. Take Harmonia’s ‘Ahoi!’ from disc one, ‘Du Krautrock à la New Wave’. Cluster expats Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius display the softer side of krautrock with delicate guitar meanderings and synthy goodness.
Or there’s Atari Teenage Riot frontman Alec Empire’s electro-infused hardcore stomper, ‘Kiss of Death’, on CD three, with its blown-out guitar battle cries. No urban retrospective would be complete without a look forward, and on the final volume, Barbara Panther ushers in the new breed sounding like a Rwandan Björk with her anxious, electro-pop masterpiece, ‘Empire.’ Which city is next on the list?