Kalkbrenner is a German techno legend from Leipzig who shot to prominence in 2008 when he produced the soundtrack for the film ‘Berlin Calling’ which he also starred in. The film follows a DJ who develops a drug problem and gets dropped from his label just as he is about to get big.
He is placed in psychiatric care but continues to produce his album alongside his treatment and all of the tracks from the album are featured throughout the film. Berlin Calling swept through Germany and much of techno loving Europe, giving Kalkbrenner iconic status. Since then he had a sell out European tour, the Berlin gig of which was at an old WW2 Luftwaffe air hanger in front of 12,000 people. The fact he was the headline act that night on a bill including techno lords Richie Hawtin, Loco Dice, Sven Väth and Booka Shade illustrates just how big he is in Germany.
So imagine our disappointment when, during the Christmas blizzard, his show at Fabric nightclub in London was cancelled. A feeling of deflation could be felt all round London, but hey ho, you can’t change the weather. 4 months later the show was rescheduled and the crowd descended once more on Farringdon, eager with expectation and glad the wait was finally over. Kalkbrenner is nowhere near as big in the UK as the rest of the continent; he plays a very European style of minimal, ambient techno and it was no surprise that English fans were in the minority.
We spoke to French, Belgian and German people outside who had come a long way to be there and could not believe their luck that Kalkbrenner was even playing a UK gig. It was a very different vibe to what example readers would expect from a night at Fabric, a club which routinely puts on huge drum & bass/ Dubstep line ups for major labels such as DJ Hype’s Playaz and Caspa’s Dub Police.
Only Room One was open (less than half the club) but in all honesty that is still a quality venue. The surprising thing was how much of a ‘concerty’ feel the event had, rather than the ravey edge synonymous with most big nights at Fabric. Maybe that was a reflection of the European crowd, or the fact it was a Thursday night or because I was sober but it was a totally different Fabric experience.
Kalkbrenner was on last, playing an hour and a half live set which meant a bit of a wait to see the man we had all turned up to see. Dominik Eulberg warmed up and was excellent, playing a harder variety of techno that got the whole crowd going and helped the excitement build. He was playing from the conventional DJ booth, but across the room on a raised platform which is usually part of the dance floor we could all see a table had been set up from where Kalkbrenner would later perform his live show. His silver macbook pro a tempting image of what was still to come, sitting there taunting the crowd of his imminent arrival.
The excitement was at fever pitch; we knew that we were about to witness a show only really found at major festivals now, but here was Kalkbrenner playing a London club to a crowd of maybe a thousand. Every single person in the club was on the dancefloor for his entrance and he dove straight into his set with the brilliant ‘Altes Kamuffel’ which has the most brilliant kick midway through which we all went crazy for. He followed that up with ‘Square 1’ and ‘Moob’ before dropping my personal favourite ‘Aaron’ (seriously you have got to check this track out).
It was a treat to actually hear him play a set that wasn’t basically just the tracks of the Berlin Calling album which had made him so famous. You could really feel the crowd surge when he played infamous tracks like Gebrunn Gebrunn but it was good that it was a different set to what many had come to expect. There were one or two of his new tunes that didn’t work for me - maybe I need to hear them again - and a small period where the set went slightly flat.
However he saved it with his new production ‘Plätscher’ which is an instant classic and a tune I have had on repeat ever since. One of the best things about Kalkbrenner is the range of his productions; some can be really wavey chilled out tunes which are perfect end of the night tunes like ‘Azure’ which he ended on, but he also has those club bangers in the middle which get you going. I don’t know many other minimal tech producers who can send the crowd on such a journey with sets filled purely with their own productions.
All in all it was a great night so thanks to example for getting us in to a sold out event. It wasn’t as good as when I saw him in Berlin, but that was probably to be expected. He didn’t even play the song of 2008 for me, the iconic ‘Sky and Sand’ which his brother Fritz Kalkbrenner does the vocals for.
I’m not going to complain at all though because seeing someone this big on a normal Thursday night was an unbelievable treat and hats off to Fabric for the booking and an incredible lights show. I’m looking forward to seeing Kalkbrenner again at MELT! Festival this summer and checking out his forthcoming album to see if can match the heights of Berlin Calling, although I’m not sure that’s possible.
I love the German vibe when it comes to electronic music, it’s got the right heart and attitude, and if you want to check some of it out then I couldn’t recommend more copping a listen of Berlin Calling or checking out the film and seeing where they take you.