Funkhaus Berlin

It seems ambient music has finally found a home in Berlin. Home, for its part, manifested itself as the Funkhaus, just across the Spree in an unexplored zone between Oberschöneweide and Treptow — the perfect space for such unexplored territory. For a genre that’s so often tacked on to a club night line up as an afterthought or added as daytime filler at a festival, it’s undeniably refreshing to find an event dedicated solely to sounds from the deep, dark beyond.

Curated by Compound Artists, a booking agency that includes Carlos Souffront, Ectomorph, Wata Igarashi, Yuka, and Ectomorph among its family of talent, Ambient Am Block B was the first of a multi-event series to take place at various venues around Berlin, starting with the Funkhaus, an old GDR institution for public radio and television built in the 1950s.

Today, the Funkhaus functions as a music and events hall, recording studio, rehearsal space, and office. The exterior architecture is classic Berlin — caught somewhere between Bauhaus and Stalinist grandeur, and the building’s legend as one of the largest contiguous recording studios in the world was enough to add a bit of magic to the day’s atmosphere.

Not that the event itself was found wanting. Magic was, it seemed, around every corner at the Funkhaus. Certainly, it was in the forest-surrounded, riverside, sun-soaked location, just as it was in the delicious food served up by the crew at Opal Collective. It was in The Ghost, a new mobile record shop that was parked in a quiet corner of the grounds. But most of all, the magic was in the music. (No surprise there).

The afternoon began with an opening set from John Osborn, a rare occurance and perhaps the first of its kind from Osborn, whose sets gear more towards the dancefloor. Later, Shackleton and Berlin-based percussionist, pianist, composer triple threat Takumi Motokawa collaborated on a live set that built at languidly, its pace a perfect complement to the day’s never ending heat. In this, the debut of their brand new show, Shackleton handled the production side, while, it seemed, Motokawa provided elements like wind chimes and keys sent hurtling into reverb and strange, intriguing soundscapes. The crowd reacted appropriately, that is to say, some swayed, some sat in contemplative quiet, others dozed, absorbed completely in sound.

As the day carried on into the night, some of the crowd retreated under the trees as rain began to drizzle — never more than a few heavy drops. Thunder rolled in the distance while fork lightning illuminated the sky above Dasha Rush’s set. Overhead, the white parachute that had been draped over the stage for the whole day, suddenly came to life with meandering lights and bursts of wind that set it, jellyfish-like, into otherworldly motion. Dasha took cues from the ambiance, her set at times so hushed you could hear bottles clinking and the lap of water in the nearby river. At others, it would grow into choral, underwater melodies and chanting vocals that pitched perfectly to the sound of faraway thunder: it was truly something else entirely.