With a predictably stacked lineup and a buzz that began months in advance, Berghain’s annual New Year’s Silvester Klubnacht was set to be a big one from the get go. Soft whisperings in a traditionally quiet queue spoke tales of varying themes of New Years past: an elusive fourth room with indoor jungles, food markets, christmas villages, and massive white boxes revellers could climb into to space out from the hard bass of Berghain’s main room – the excitement was palpable, and the allure of the sparsely availed Electroacoustic Salon a cherry on top.
Even the bouncers were in good spirits. Frohes neues (Happy New Year auf Deutsch, shortened from Frohes Neues Jahr), out with the old, in with the new, and how better to start the new year than with a rave that ended 4 days after it began last year, promising 4 floors of an eclectic mix of techno, house, disco, and ambient music.
Once inside, the addition of the two rooms closed on normal Klubnachts, Lab.oratory, located on Berghain ground floor, normally home to notoriously wild mens-only gay nights, and the Electroacoustic Salon, doubled the venue’s normal size. Accessible from both the Berghain dancefloor, and a longer route circumnavigating Säule and Lab.oratory, entering the Electroacoustic Salon was like entering a spaceship. Featuring two floors, each with potentially 20 metre high ceilings, the upstairs would prove to be the home of the music. Massive, sterile, 2001: A Space Odyssey like, monolithic pillars and slabs of concrete blocks, occasionally covered with mattresses for tired ravers, featured as the rooms only decor – and it was hard to envision how the hypnotic, hard hitting, techno mastermind Etapp Kyle would play the vast, daunting, floor.
Certainly what came was not what was expected.
Taking the floor at 2:30am, night between Tuesday the 1st and Wednesday the 2nd, Etapp followed a desirably inaccessible four hour set by Vladimir Ivkovic. With his predecessor serving up minimal, abstract tracks, captivating much of the by this stage worse for wear audience, Etapp changed the low spatial sounds, quirky noises, tones and frequencies, right from the onset, and began what would be a much softer, easy-going, and comforting set.
Where Ivkovic’s set had commanded the crowd’s attention through its oddities and inpredictability, Etapp’s softer approach allowed the crowds to zone out and hang in that pleasurable semi-aware consciousness where the music absorbs and stops all conscious activity of the human mind.
With soft melodic tracks reminiscent of an Alessandro Cortini set Etapp transformed the industrial cold hall into an alien womb, where tired feet and minds could rest, not compelled to face the task of comprehending stringent tones and vibrations, but be enveloped in the softer side of ambient music.
Through the impressive soundsystem which throughout the night almost succeeded in drowning out the vibrating bassline of the techno next door, Nils Frahm’s Says was one of the highlights of the set. Heads on mattresses and concrete blocks swayed softly and a slightly magical feeling was in the air, perhaps though to some, more related to being at this event and this place at this time, rather than at Etapp’s set itself in particular. On a personal note, only thing taking away from this moment is the fact that this happens to be the author’s flatmates morning alarm song – which I have the pleasure of being woken up by daily.
Contrasted with Etapp Kyle’s reputation for dark, hypnotic, detailed techno this, easier, almost warm music played during the four hours were a surprise, though not unenjoyable. Perhaps the set’s juxtaposition to the predeceasing made the contrast all the starker.
As per usual, and one of the draws of the Berghain Silvester Klubnacht is the line-up’s focus on Berghain resident DJ’s. These are artists who know the events, the space, the attendees, and their needs. Etapp Kyle, no exception, delivered perhaps not the set that was anticipated, or even sought, but perhaps the set that was needed for those bridging four hours between night and next morning, providing attendees with a needed break, helping them make it to day three of the show.