Returning for its fourth edition, Berlin-based festival Pop-Kultur set up shop in the Kulturbrauerei, previously one of the world’s largest breweries. The accessible complex which is usually home to cinemas, theatres and clubs was once again transformed to host a vast array of global acts within a line-up where over 50% of the acts were women (take note UK festivals).
Despite the festival name ‘Pop-Kultur’– which according to the festival curator, Christian Morin, is a collective term loosely used to group music which falls outside the classical genre – the interdisciplinary festival was far from ‘Pop’, with respects to our understanding of UK equivalents; but included everything from hip-hop, alternative, R&B, rock and of course, electronic.
Here are our top five sets on the Berlin festival in no particular order.
Bringing a London vitality to Berlin, 25-year old Flohio set the pace with a fierce opening to her set on the intimate Alte Kantine stage. Getting the crowd to match her electric live energy was easy enough – as the racing production of 'Bands' thumped out of the speaker and Flohio pierced through with a hard-hitting, unrelenting flow. To be honest you would have been forgiven for thinking she was performing to a familiar crowd in the comfort of her hometown.
A mixture of the old and new, Flohio effortlessly switched from 'Fights', the genre-defying 2017 collaboration with God Colony into brand new track '10 Rounds'. It's worth nothing that her speedy, raw delivery remained solid throughout and keeping up this momentum didn’t seem like a problem either; as Flohio skittered across the stage to ‘Watchouts’' arresting beat.
The crowd began chanting ‘Watchout’ back to the rising MC, ending the set on a high.
An immersive set, both sonically and visually, Kedr accompanied her dreamy vocals and synth-led productions with dark, moving imagery which was as captivating as her music. Under the flickering coloured lights of the Alte Kantine stage, it was difficult to take your eyes off the Russian export, whose voice echoed effortlessly through the crowd. And while her intense tunnel vision stare remained fixed yet far away into the middle of the audience, the pace often flickered from the weightless techno beats of 'Za Oknom Vesna'; and the hazy flowery graphics behind her – into the more a chunky electro production of 'ACDC' and back into the introspective 'Ariadna', where she showed off the extent of her ethereal vocal ability.
Hard to tell what kind of crowd you’re going to get when you’re one of the last acts on the last day to play at a festival. Most people’s ears are exhausted, but that didn’t phase BEARCAT. The Discwoman member knew exactly how to keep the crowd going for a little longer in the Frannz club. Starting off with a slower bpm that soon picked up tempo into more pounding industrial tracks of her set, it was in equal measure delicate and weighty. Incorporating international sounds from her native London, adopted NYC and the middle east, the opposing sound design showed off her versatility and ability to switch it up at any given moment.
French electro duo Agar Agar played out the packed Alte Kantine stage on Thursday, and felt like they should have appeared on a bigger stage, as fans were standing on tables to catch a glimpse of the duo on stage. From the little occasional glimpses that I caught of the pair through the crowd gaps, Clara’s sultry voice and Armand's combinations on the keyboard were enough to keep the crowded fixated in for the entire set time. As the set progressed from electro pop into dark, hardcore techno, so did the crowd connection. A palpable force ran through the stage, as the crowd started howling, similar to that of a wolf/dog, back at the pair during a brief pauses between tracks.
I have to include this electronic facing Russian punk band, for how shockingly good they were. When the description, ‘underground Russian punk band’ was thrown about by some of the organisers, I was absolutely certain it would not be my cup of tea. Once I entered the Frannz club however, just to initially take a peak, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. Not only was it one of the most powerful performances I saw at Pop-Kultur but possibly the best thing I've seen all year. Treating the Frannz club less like another gig and more like performance art space, the lead singer had the most interaction with the crowd – vogueing his way off stage and into the audience to create a dance-off, while simultaneously keeping his sultry falsetto over the angsty synth beats. It didn’t matter that he sang in Russian, because I and most of the crowd seemed to understand every word of this sonic storm.