Deep in an industrial corner of east Berlin, a circle of synths, wires and laptops are positioned like a bandstand at Funkhaus. The giant main room, designed in the 50s to perfectly capture the sound of an orchestra, is a marvel of mid-20th century design. Tonight, it’s home to Circle of Live, the improvisational project of Swedish producer Sebastian Mullaert.
The project was only activated this summer, but tonight it transmits confident energy across feet-shuffling Berliners. As people start milling through the venue, the sounds start off Orb-like, the occasional trumpet wafting through a sea of tantric synths. By the time the hall starts to fill up, four men on stage have alchemised a bubbling 4/4 rhythm, the sound ballooning into the kind of main room techno that causes members of the audience to visibly smirk at each other.
Mullaert has brought with him a veritable Ocean’s 4 of electronic music talent: sonic textures build and players dig deeper and deeper into their sound, prompting the audience to guess who is actually playing each part. Are those subby-wobbles the work of revered German duo Âme? Is it Mathew Jonson bringing a large dose of Berghain-shaking crunch to the stage? Or is it Mullaert’s long-term collaborator Ljudbilden & Piloten sending us towards intricate, high-end diversions?
Experiencing techno that is seemingly conjured out of thin air, constantly shape-shifting, feels like a refreshing challenge. At Circle of Live, grooves lock in, only to be replaced by layers of new sound and then, minutes later, discarded and forgotten like thought patterns over a busy day. This is a six-hour set, and, like the way the musicians themselves duck in and out of it, it’s best experienced in waves.