There’s a limit to how much you can cram into an unexpected work trip to Berlin, but I managed an “alternative Berlin” walk, 45minutes in the Modern Art Gallery, a record shop, a few aimless meanders and mass Karaoke session in Mauerpark.

Or rather I missed a mass Karaoke session as I had a flight to catch. Going by Youtube it’s a sight to behold, the full bearpit packed with a raucous crowd urging on the amateurs as they murder the popular classics (check out Prince “Kiss” & Sir Mixalot “Big Butts” – the crowd go crazy for the last one). Instead I enjoyed the sun, Mauerpark’s version of Camden market, a graffiti covered stadium and an unexpected highlight, Lucky Paul with his car battery powered electronic busking.

The Kiwi producer is based in Berlin & he pops up for impromptu jams all across the city. He’ll often rope in friends like DJ Vadim and Yarah Bravo, although on this day there was only a passing Borat lookalike and his pals begging to try the mic. Apologies are offered for the fact that the sound and vision below doesn’t really do Lucky Paul justice, but I was just playing around with the camera.

Lucky Paul – Myspace / Buy
Watch: Lucky Paul, DJ Vadim & Yarah Bravo – Live Alexanderplatz (Youtube)

Not having much time for record shopping I took a trip to Dense Records which proclaims itself as Berlin’s one-stop-shop for everything sonically unusual.
It stocks everything other than the mainstream, and the friendly guy behind the counter dealt was happy to recommend a few “local” sounds. He also enthused about trips to Manchester’s Piccadilly Records & Sounds Of The Universe in London.

Here are the three releases he picked out:

The Q4 or QuadraphoniQuartet are an odd first choice as the group is a collaboration between three Dutch producers: Arts the Beatdoctor, Sense and STW. It is however released on Berlin based Hip-Hop / Electronica label Project Mooncircle.

They scratch up obscure old samples, cut them into individual notes and then form impromptu jam session over the top. Their Sound Surroundings LP features a host of guest vocalists and rappers but for my money it’s actually the instrumental tracks that standout the most.

The Q4 – Facebook / Myspace
The Q4 – “One Of These Days” (MP3)

The Jahtari label releases digital laptop reggae, and is endearingly geeky about old computers. Visiting their website you’re advised to install a C-64 font to get the full Jahtari experience.
For those too young to remember (and I’m told some are) Atari were a legendary computer company, and Jah! is what middle class people exclaim when visiting Sound systems at Notting Hill Carnival*. *He may also be the Rastafarian god.
If you love Reggae, be sure to head over to their site for oodles of free dubwise downloads!
Citadel Station” sounds like Luigi & Mario gave up freeing princess’s and made a dub track. 8-bit dub loveliness… check out that bassline!

Jahtari – Website / Myspace / Facebook
Buy “Jahtarian Dubbers Vol.2”
Read: Jahtari’s guide to the history of Reggae Music.
Disrupt – “Citadel Station” (MP3)

Olaf Bender, co-founder of experimental electronic label Raster-Noton was an audio/visual artist in the East before the wall came down. Aside from his musical aka Byetone he also oversees the always innovative graphic design and packaging for Raster-Noton releases.

In the interview below Olaf talks about how music perhaps means less than it did once. When he grew up music was resistance, especially against the state in East Germany, but now its more linked to the fashionable and the sheer quantity. I don;t need every single MP3 on my harddisk he says, he’s happy to be selective.

Label mate Alva Noto featured in my favourite tracks of the year back in 2008 with the stunningly good mathematics meets the dance floor “U08-1”.

Byetone – Myspace / Facebook
Watch: Interview with Olaf / Raster Noton history
Byetone – “Plastic Star (Session)” (MP3)
Alva Noto – “U08-1” (MP3)