Review: Brandt Brauer Frick In The Kulturquartier

The band / Image © Max Parovsky.

Sometimes when you go to a gig you know that by attending you’re becoming part of a special moment. Many things can contribute to this—a certain line-up, an unusual location, a particular occasion. Among those moments were surely the concerts by The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble feat. Beaver Sheppard and The Free Electric Singers at Silent Green Kulturquartier on 9th and 10th September. They created an experience that, in many ways, could be described as being representative of what so many people love about Berlin.

To be fair, a band has to be special if it can afford a title that fills an entire line of text. The latest project put together by Brandt Brauer Frick (BBF) definitely ticks that box. Bringing together elements of classical instrumentation and Jazz into a club music format, they have become famous all over the world. Then developing this concept further, in 2010 they formed The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, a 10-person instrumental group.

Image © Niklas Kossow.

For the September gigs BBF added Beaver Sheppard, a Canadian Singer based in Montreal to the ensemble. Together with The Free Electric Singers the group brought a whopping 15 people on stage to create a more than special sounds experience. The Berlin gigs were only the second and third of their kind, after an initial concert at Kölner Philharmonie.

The different instruments combined by the ensemble reminded the audience of what electronic music is about: bringing together different lines of music and a beat to form a new and often inspiring sound experience. Beaver Sheppard’s soaring falsetto transformed the beats of the BBF ensemble into something more enduring and made it get under your skin. The fact that he lay asleep or left the stage when he wasn’t featured in the tracks pointed to the temporary nature of the alliance, creating in turn something that would stick in listeners’ ears for a while.

Silent Green Kulturquartier / Image © Cordia Schlegelmilch.

What made the concert truly special, however, was its setting at Silent Green Kulturquartier. The former crematory has been only recently converted into a venue after the restoration of its cupola hall. The acoustics of the old building contributed considerably to the success of the evenings, encouraging the sounds of the grand piano and cello to resonate on the high walls. Even though a former crematory might leave an eerie feeling for some, the brick walls surrounding a small courtyard invited guests to reminisce about older times.

The gig reminded me of a conversation between two English friends of mine a long time ago. He (an electronic music enthusiast) was trying to explain her (a cellist and classical music fan) what was so great about electro, and gave her his headphones, instructing her to pay attention to each individual musical line and how carefully they were mixed together. My classical-music friend took note, tried to think about electronic music in a different way, but ultimately remained unconvinced.

Today I am sure that one of the few occasions that could have reconciled the musical tastes of my two friends was Silent Green Kulturquartier experience. Both would likely have been talking about the event for a long time, but another thing is also for sure: they would have gone home to England talking about Berlin: a truly inspiring place playing host to some of the most unique venues for electronic music projects in the entire world.

And for those saddened because they missed out on the evenings, an upcoming recording of the gigs might offer some reconciliation—but only some. Where the recording may capture the unique sounds to some degree, it is simply not possible to completely convey that special feeling of the night at Silent Green.

By Niklas Kossow
Niklas Kossow is a Cologne native who has been flirting with life in Berlin for over three years. If he’s not fighting corruption or writing a PhD, he’s likely to be found hanging around in a hammock by the Kreuzberg canal. Having had many love affairs with other cities in the world he glad to be back in Berlin. He tweets @niklaskossow

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