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Radio-Activity: Cashmere Radio Berlin
Oobah Butler , August 3rd, 2015 14:50

Oobah Butler reports on Berlin's Cashmere Radio, an electronic avant-garde digital radio station broadcasted from a cocktail bar.

After a long trip on the U-Bahn, I circle up staircases and emerge in the far east of Berlin. Lichtenberg is comprised of wide streets, dilapidated buildings and kebab shops. I never thought I'd step into a place more reliant on the Kebab industry than Kings Heath, but here I am. After chartering suburban back roads, overgrown and lived-in, we pass through a large wooden gate and into the barn behind it. Populated by a flaneur cast of multi-national Berlin residents, this is the home of Cashmere Radio, an electronic avant-garde digital radio station broadcasted from a presumably-unlicensed cocktail bar. It is a project orchestrated by a number of Masters students from Universität der Künste Berlin. Today they're broadcasting a live performance to an audience; notably the understated and ever-influential sound artist Hans Peter Kuhn, who sits with his feet dipped into a paddling pool, sipping on a Weissbier.

Electric cables hug the walls, leading to a roundtable of laptops and microphones. Musicians cradle fascinating devices: from the obscure and handmade to more traditional strings and brass. This is the studio in which Cashmere Radio goes on air. Today, we're treated to a peculiar piece told from the perspective of Monica Lewinsky, the woman with whom US President Bill Clinton had an affair in 1997. With a complex texture of dropped ping-pong balls, abrasive attacks of saxophone and cyclical synthesisers, it is primarily atonal but leaves space for vignettes of tonality. In response to an hour of sparse drones is a sharp and sensitive violin solo, while after a similarly daunting period of readings the group break into a fit of noise and emerge with a humorous vaudeville-style over of 'Part Of Your World' from The Little Mermaid.

The piece, vascillating in both instrumentation and performance, works with a two-pronged rhetoric, selling Lewinsky as both an incandescent young female and a conflicted, defensive victim. They portray her as the significant first victim of character assassination and redefinition on the Internet.

This is but a brief illustration of the work they're doing at Cashmere. If you glimpse at their schedule, you'll notice live performances from the likes of Raccoglimento Parziale, Alex Pastore's Ego Death and Donau's The Key Of RGB, and weekly slots such as Vincent Manfuoco's Psychedilia-obsessed "Acid Shampoo" that brings attention to different experimental scenes around the globe. The most listened-to offerings are the Tropical Jazz-infused White Leather Shoes and O.D.L., which focuses on forgotten analogue tapes. Each show aims to capture a different aspect of the obscure and underground. It is, however, their new programme Chronopolis that is most intriguing

Every episode of the show enlists a different sound artist to present a new piece of generative music to be broadcasted day and night for two weeks solid. Curated by Jacob Eriksen, Lukas Grundmann and Gregor Pfeffer, the show's ambition is to be an autonomous, unpredictable and uneven experience that breathes in real time. According to Eriksen, listeners can tune-in with no idea what to expect, "sometimes they'll hear silence or maybe a drone, but at the next given opportunity there could be a more hectic aesthetic or an approach to a climax". German author Karl Scheffler once spoke of Berlin being "a city condemned forever to becoming and never to being" and in their approach, the trio have discovered something that many artists have failed to before them: a platform capable of portraying the unique ambience of the capital.

Tune into Cashmere now and be transposed into the worn streets of the East. You'll hear intermittent crunches of noise: a burst every few minutes maybe. This is Niko LFO in the midst of his three hundred and thirty six hour showcase entitled Hanz Memorial. Over this period, figures assimilated from 'the rare musical footage of forgotten avant-garde musique concrète artist Hans Nibler' are randomly generating. It is not the "cultural extravaganza" that Bowie once spoke of, but with its dynamic desolate schedule and modest setting, Cashmere Radio may just be the back door entrance into one of the most complex and aloof contemporary music scenes.

Listen to Cashmere Radio here