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Hamburg & Amsterdam, May 09th 2021

high voltage
Bonjour à toutes et à tous!
Hello and welcome! Nice that you havefound your way back to us. Today there are at least three reasons to celebrate.
  1. A little over a year ago we started sending out our Lettre. Born in truly turbulent times and curated by Felix and Jan, this newsletter was meant to provide a little bit of joy, connect us with each other (off the beaten social media path), inspire us to discover new music and new ideas, and yes, maybe spark a conversation or two with us or others.
  2. It's Mother's Day! Without mothers, we would be - truly- nothing. They are great and sometimes you should just say it or write it down. Cheers to all the mothers in the world, their love is what keeps the world going. Loyle Carner has this wonderful song about himself and his mom: Sun of Jean. Tune in.
  3. It's our former team member Pippa's birthday today. Happy Birthday! We both hope to finally be able to toast with you again! By the way, here you can find the ancient oldie playlist she was in charge of, smooth like butter.
Also good: After some initial problems, spring seems to be slowly settling in. For many of us, the best weeks of the year are now approaching. Finally, we can get some fresh air again and swap the cold for some breeze, balconies and beach slippers. (Almost) everything is under pressure at the moment - at least that's how we feel about it. We are wound up to a high pitch. So here comes your lightning rod to stay grounded amidst all the stress around us. So grab a delicious coffee, a pain au chocolat or a cold beer and enjoy the sun. We highly recommend reading this markedly cool edition of our little newsletter. Oh, one more thing: we keep linking real gems in the text! So feel free to click on the links (that's what they look like). So far only 16.6% do that, ergo 83.4% of you are missing out. For the English edition we try to offer mostly English links, but some unfortunately remain in German. The music recommendations are also listed in green boxes as 'multiplatform links'. If you click there, you can quickly get to the streaming service / seller of your choice or to Youtube, just to have a listen. Helloooo!
Music N°1
DARKSIDE - The Limit

Darkside is divinely good and back with new music. Well, that's not a completely objective assessment, of course. I am a big Nicolas Jaar fan. He is - not only for me personally - one of the most impressive contemporary interpreters of electronic music. There is no musician whose art I love as much as that of Nicolas Jaar's. He is the only musician who has accompanied and blown me away since I've known him (which is probably since 2010). He is a welcome guest on our website, even though I have always practised restraint. There I also wrote : Nicolas Jaar is a mercilessly talented DJ and producer.

However, two geniuses belong to Darkside. Besides Nicolas Jaar, there is also guitarist Dave Harrington. The project presented here bears Jaar's unmistakable signature. Even as a duo, he works with precision on unique, organic, electronic music. Since his debut album Space Is Only Noise from 2011, Jaar seems to have lost interest in straight releases and instead concentrates on his label Other People, experimental live shows and music with Harrington.
Darkside 2014 live at Gloria Theater, Cologne.
Seven years after the temporary end of the Darkside experiment ("Gone too soon"), the two New Yorkers are back and will release their second album after Psychic this summer. It will be called Spirals and will probably be released on 23 July 2021. Harrington's guitar gives Jaar's intricately constructed soundscapes a fuller, more polished touch than usual. He is brilliant at interweaving live instruments with electronics at meditative tempos. The album Psychic already unfolded in classic, in-your-face Jaar style, from his own, sometimes breathtaking, vocals (track: Golden Arrow) to the rumbling drums on Freak Go Home and the sonorous piece Greek Light. But above all, the track Paper Trails is second to none. Jaar makes serious music and yet it quickly becomes a solemn affair - just turn it up and enjoy.

The musical dialogue of Dave Harrington and Nicolas Jaar, of rock and electronics, or guitar and computer, goes into a next round. The first taste of the album foreshadows a similarly immersive listening experience. My expectations are insanely high.

If you didn't know Darkside or Nicolas Jaar until now: Congratulations! There are a lot of records to discover. A small introduction to Jaar's music by me can be found here [in German]. The gentleman also has an alter ego for the dancefloor, called All Against Logic. This way to the dance floor.

So that you are not left baffled after so much praise, here is some orientation: first listen to Paper Trails from the album Psychic, then to The Limit - our recommendation N°1 for this newsletter and Liberty Bell - also a taster of the forthcoming album.
Quite chilled: On the Baltic Sea, 2020.

Do you also sometimes have the feeling that almost all facets of our lives currently only exist in their extreme form? Are we simply too unbalanced at the moment? Is the ongoing pandemic wearing us down or are we simply spending too much time on the internet? Or both? What's going on at the moment?

In this issue, we devote ourselves to the feeling of being overloaded, of being under powered, of being wound up to a high pitch. We dare a purely speculative and social-psychological interpretation of the current situation rather than a sociological analysis. It is rather a question of how we feel in these strange times. After more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, we feel a lot of tension (and this despite the fact that the two of us live a relatively comfortable life). We look out of our home into the (online) world and behold a bizarre spectacle of scandals, scandalisation, vaccination for boomers, extreme hardship, tense-fought normality and worn-out people. Less often do we see people in balance, in zen, classification in substance, visionary development or simply a relaxed, good life. Malicious gossip (or clever minds like Jason Hickel [book tip]) has it that this is unleashed capitalism or the tyranny of growth. Unfortunately, this is true, but it is a bit too abstract for us. Let's try to describe what we see underneath this "superstructure".
We are observing galloping inflation of scandalisation and constant shifting of the normal to the extreme. A good and recent example is the much-discussed documentary "Seaspiracy" on Netflix. Seaspiracy is an important testimony to our treatment of the oceans and their inhabitants for sure, but filmmaker Ali Tabrizi and his film often seem driven by a compulsion to the superlative. And unfortunately, this also leads to one or two mistakes in craftsmanship. This is regrettable because it diminishes valuable and much-needed capital. The credibility suffers, we become numb after initially being spellbound by the exciting music and the intense images. Even more blatant is "The Social Dilemma", a totally misleading and simplistic documentary about the supposed manipulative power of social media.

The tension between attention and truth is getting stronger and stronger and unfortunately, in case of doubt, the louder one seems to win. Scientific findings or complex interrelationships are treated more and more like products that need to be marketed like mobile phones and fitness studio subscriptions.

We notice this with Corona, with climate protection, with our health, and so on. This not only leads to beating around the bush, but above all to a distorted picture of reality, to hardened fronts, and ultimately kills the discourse. Because of all this TedX simplification, we forget how to tackle complex systemic problems - with the necessary calm, of course.

We forget to weigh things up, to build up a certain critical distance to things, and to keep a clear head through this hyped-up Redbull-soaked excitement. When buying an iPhone, this may be part of the experience, but we would like to discuss the dramatic(!) consequences of our animal diet in a more controlled way. A nice contrast to the lurid documentaries on Netflix is what Arte has to offer. There you can often find exciting and factual discussions about the relevant topics. Incidentally, there are also many "young" and fresh formats on current topics. Balm for the soul and food for the mind. And at least a touch of analytical fundamentalism.
On the way to Noord, Amsterdam, 2020.
Arte Watchlist.

One to three documentary tips from us:
  • Once Upon a Time in Iraq. The three-part Arte documentary [Alternative Link] deals with Iraq under Saddam Hussein, the invasion of the "Coalition of the Willing" in 2003, the fall of Saddam, the war that lasted for years, the emergence of the terrorist organisation "Islamic State" up to today's Iraq. A must watch! ;-)
  • The Cleaners. Explore the shadow [Alternative Link] industry of "content moderators" hired by Silicon Valley bosses to monitor what we see online. Although Tristan Harris, the most famous prodigal tech bro appears, this film is certainly better suited than The Social Dilemma to understanding hate and fake news online.
  • The Gig is up. No more time off the job [Alternative Link], that's what Uber and Deliveroo promise! Why was this hardly a topic on 1 May ??? For Uber Eats and Co. We should take the insanity of the gig economy as an opportunity to think more about work, low wages and food/to-go/ordering culture. But this is also something for a separate newsletter.
Music N°2
DJ Koze - DJ Koze Presents Pampa, Vol. 1

I recently rediscovered this compilation. I'd like to say "I pulled it out of the old box of long-forgotten CDs", but unfortunately that remains wishful thinking. To be honest, the Spotify algorithms threw this great record back at me. Let's leave this little observation as it is and get back to the matter at hand. DJ Koze, luminary of German techno music, label boss (Pampa Records) and one of those techno artists who manage the balancing act between the gloomy, closed Berlin club scene and the big mainstream stage relatively smoothly and without apparent ease. The list of artists DJ Koze brings together here under one roof speaks for his standing: Roman Flügel, Mount Kimbie, Jamie XX or Acid Paul mix with label artists like Sophia Kennedy, Die Vögel or Isolée.
The sound fits well into this time of year. Ideal for enjoying the first real sunshine hours of the year outside. A bit of melancholy resonates when it gets a bit brisker and you wish you were in a club or at least in a nice beer garden. Let's hope that soon we won't have to listen to music like this only in our own rooms.
Rosa resonance.
It's kind of stupid right now. We have plenty of time on our hands but we find it difficult to use it properly. Instead of reading, we surf through social media, which further reinforces the feeling of restlessness. Hartmut Rosa talks about this in an interview worth reading in this weekend's taz: "We do things that deliver short-cycled high stimulation density with low resonance value." Rosa admits to watching stupid videos himself from time to time. Yes, exactly the intellectual, resonance and social theorist Rosa watches cat videos. So, stay cool. He describes how the pandemic heightens the dystopian potentials of capitalist modernity and, at the same time, speeds up time and a de-realisation of space and the social. Look like we have landed back at our superstructure capitalism after all - pardon.

We notice this particularly now because social interactions are almost completely absent or at least take place in a very limited way. What we are missing are, above all, unplanned social interactions. According to Rosa, this causes a dramatic psychological loss of energy. We are supercharged, even overcharged, and at the same time, we lack energy. If we take these thoughts seriously, it follows that in addition to the European Recovery Programme of economic (and hopefully) ecological reconstruction, we as a society must also invest heavily in non-material reconstruction! This concerns everyone, but especially young people such as pupils, students, trainees - groups whose interests were marginalised worldwide during the pandemic.
Music N°3
Iliona – Moins Jolie & Reste

Music and poetry combined into modern, French chanson. The young Iliona reminds us of the French singer Barbara, whom Ilona also describes as a great influence and whom we have already featured here. Or is she the new Angèle? Young, talented and also stepping out of Belgium onto the stage of the francophone world. My tip that almost made me cry is Moins Jolie - that's how much it moved me. Maybe it was the moment, but the lyrics and Illiona's voice have a certain poetic power.
C'est le jour où l'été est arrivé
Le jour où nous avons rangé nos ratés
Comme l'on jette parfois du mobilier abîmé
On a déposé notre amour sur un trottoir du quartier
Alors sans cri, nous avons ri
Comme pour couvrir le bruit de nos sanglots
Timidement, on s'est dit "restons amis", comme si c'était beau

If you like it electronic-poppy, the song Reste is also recommended (trigger warning: autotune).

"Mêlant le piano et l'autotune avec délicatesse, Iliona est l'une des révélations musicales de l'année!"
Enjoying vegetarian Ikea hot dogs in the car park during the pandemic in France, 2020.
Living on the edge.

Especially in such turbulent times, the escape to extremes is very common. It is a story of making a mountain out of a molehill. Or making a big deal out of nothing. We are not concerned with a stronger polarisation of the content itself, but rather with the way this content is processed, much more importantly; evaluated. Comments and reactions to decisions and realities in the Corona Crisis are often either devastating or highly praiseworthy. A wrong decision quickly ends up as a scandal in no time, a small success makes one the savior of humanity.

First and foremost, the problem is that this causes us to lose sight of the really bad things or the really extraordinary achievements that ultimately need to be fought for or defended. Let's just think for a moment about the tremendous inequality of wealth that is further exacerbated by the pandemic, or the degree of democratic freedom we enjoy (to name something positive as well). We end up constantly shifting our reference point, simply living on the edge. As a result, we always have to come up with new superlatives whenever something is really really outstanding. Conversely, this means that we get into trouble when we come across something that upsets our nice, simple world order again. Seemingly without any need, we deprive ourselves of the ordinal scales and, by doing so, mix everything into one big uniform mash. 
This loss is momentous because it prevents us from thinking and discussing in a targeted and differentiated way and thus from acting effectively. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), this world cannot be divided into a handful of general truths. It is complicated. And that is why we should avoid a discourse and a style of politics that ignores this fact. Relax, because then you will be in full possession of your powers.
Soaking up the spring sun in Paris, 2018.

Featured Playlist

We collect our music recommendations from this newsletter in this Spotify playlist. But we also have a few other playlists on offer. Our account on Spotify is called Kollektiv Individualismus Crew and is happy to have followers!

In the future, we would like to present a playlist in the newsletter from time to time. We may also feature playlists from other people. This time there's a big pack of love from 2018: L'amour toujours.

Playlists are a great thing and represent today what records used to be: a collection of music. So that you can listen and not be busy clicking. Our playlists are hand-picked, regional and organic. Just take a look.

We tend to think more and more only in black and white. The categories that shape this pigeonhole thinking are also becoming more and more generic. In the end, this leads to a binary world, not only in the digital space. We forget the spectrum. But isn't that what defines us? Unlike (most) computers, we can very well adopt a state between 0 and 1. That is the beauty of the natural, after all. 

We are allowed to nuance. Come with us into the in-between. So we have to rediscover the in-between for ourselves or, as touched on above, learn again to navigate between the poles. To see shades of grey between the black and white. All the beauty of this world is hidden within it. It where the special is coming from. Only through the normal [last newsletter], the everyday, does the special become something great.
Hot air at the push of a button in Mainz, 2019.
Music N°4
James Blake - Before

Truly a genius who comes to his late honour here. James Blake is interesting in many ways. His music is intelligent, calm, bass-heavy, sensual and inspiring all at once. With his understanding of pop music, Blake has burst genre boundaries and silenced an entire generation. In a special way, one loses oneself completely in his music and can virtually dissolve into it.

The brilliant British cultural theorist Mark Fisher, the author of Capitalist Realism [book tip], wrote a few years ago about Blake that his music resembles a ghost that takes on more and more form over the course of his records. That's a beautiful and certainly fitting metaphor for what Blake does. Then there is praise from Feist, whose Limit to your Love was grandly reinterpreted by Blake: "He has created a whole cosmos of his own with his music," she raved in a 2011 interview. "His version of Limit To Your Love is not a copy, it's basically a new standard like Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra." A homage that was followed by many more. Artist friendships with Kanye West, Mount Kimbie and Bon Iver are no longer so surprising.
Captures life in the Lockdown. Blake in his home studio recording the title track, along with footage of dancers dancing in their respective homes.
Blake's 2019 album Assume Form was a romantic, emotionally open recalibration of his music. Now we get to experience a slightly different James Blake again. Lovely ballads, club character and living room dancing come together harmoniously in James Blake's latest release Before. For me, James Blake is one of the most innovative and groundbreaking artists of our era. He combines his whole pack of own vulnerability, fragility and insecurity with masculinity with a massive musical development full of creative elements.
Just lie down, close your eyes and soak it all up. We can only recommend to simply run through all three albums in their entirety. 

ECB and Spamfilter.

It seems to us that our discourses are becoming sharper and sharper. It's all about agitation, it's all about the scandal, about the biggest possible outcry. Why the comparison with galloping inflation? Inflation because, similar to the monetary system, with an increase in the quantity (of money or scandal) in relation to production (political discourse or economic output - let's be brutal), devaluation takes place. Galloping because inflation per se is not good or bad, but should be considered in the macroeconomic context. The ECB has the mandate to ensure price stability and aims to maintain inflation in the euro area, i.e. the rate of price increase, below but close to 2%. Inflation is therefore dangerous when it gets out of hand.
Long story short: We claim that we like to get upset, but that this also causes us to lose sight of essential real problems. We do like a bit of scandal, but it's important to find the right balance. We want to be able to scandalize, but only if it's worth it.
Overload as an explanation? Is it easier to scandalize than to deal with the problem properly? Probably so! We are probably also tempted to do so by the attention economy and social media. Our lives take place more and more as BILD [german yellow press] headlines or Instagram stories. Sure, because everything and everyone we meet is striving for the most important resource of our time: our attention. And unfortunately, it's easier to trigger that attention with (alleged) scandals. So we have to readjust our spam filters. It's more important than ever to filter interfering signals, to be able to put things into their right context. Or simply disconnect, pull the plug, recalibrate. That also has something to do with coolness. Accepting things, looking at them unemotionally, staying relaxed. Of course, that's easier to say than it often seems, especially now, but it helps.

See you soon!

Felix & Jan
Music N°5
Fazer - Mara

Attention JAZZ! There hasn't been some from us for a while now. Fazer is a jazz group from Munich. The band combines African and Latin American rhythms with deep basslines and melancholic melodies. Sounds quite British. Afrobeat is hip: especially in England, more young bands than ever are currently experimenting with funky wind instruments and complex rhythms. The trumpet, on the other hand, gives it a touch of cool jazz. "Polyrhythmic sophistication that is rarely heard with this delicacy" writes Jazz Thing. Let's leave it at that. Next stop: the album Nadi.
Completely relaxed: Lolo on Felix Terasse in Amsterdam, 2020.
The end.

This was our ninth newsletter. We hope you enjoyed it because we always try to deliver something cool here. We are happy about criticism, possible recommendations and also about new subscriptions. Newsletters still have something of spam and advertising. This is unfortunate because we don't want to have anything to do with that. Maybe we can change that together? We started with this first issue in May 2020 and now we have over 120 recipients. If you would like to write to us, please send an email to: We look forward to receiving replies! And on the internet you can always visit our website, hang out and be amazed. Oh, and we also have an archive with all our previous newsletters.

And now: Da capo!
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Venice Queen

On the back seat a crate of Gaffel Wiess, hot stuff from the "Dom city" Cologne, as I learned from a reliable source, in the footwell a mixture of garden shears, old masks and a change of clothes. We are sitting in a small electric car that, back in 2015, looked quite futuristic but will certainly not win any design awards these days. Anthony Kiedis starts rapping (can you call it that?), quietly but quickly we hum through the streets. At some point, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have had enough of their rap excursion and simply start the song again from the beginning. We turn up the volume, the battery is well-filled. A dirty electric car, some good music and two good friends.
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Imagecredits: © Felix Vieg © Felix Vieg © Jan Nitschke © Felix Vieg © Iliona/ © Mara Bosanac © Felix Vieg © Spotify Screenshot © Jan Nitschke © Felix Vieg

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