- During International Film Festival Rotterdam, AKA IFFR, a deluge of cinema fans descend upon the city. In addition to the hundreds of films being shown, there are Q&As, masterclasses, award ceremonies, afterparties, industry gatherings and a myriad peripheral events happening citywide. For years, WORM, a countercultural hub at the heart of Rotterdam's hip arts district, has hosted sound//vision, a mini audiovisual festival in itself, during this time. This year, they also hosted EarWORM, a trio of evenings centred around music documentaries, with talks and performances afterwards. This is how several IFFR stragglers found themselves shuffling to techno well into Wednesday AM on the last day of January—a rarity in workingman's Rotterdam, where raving is strictly for the weekends.
Around 100 people had gathered several hours earlier to see the Dutch premiere of Raw Chicks.Berlin, the 2017 feature-length film by Beate Kunath about female musicians in Berlin. The director, together with Eléonore Roedel, launched Raw Chicks in 2012 as a platform for women working within electronic music. They started running nights at Berlin spot Raw Tempel—hence the "Raw" bit—which closed down in 2015. Over the years they've supported musicians of all kinds, from sound artists to club DJs, and Raw Chicks.Berlin paid tribute to this. The film also trained a light on Berlin as a place where such a vast range of creativity can thrive. It's why many of the artists featured in the film decided to leave their native countries for the capital—and the migration continues today.
Split between studio and live performance shots, the audience was projected directly into the lives and work of all 11 acts, which included more familiar names like Raster-Noton's Kyoka and Ziúr, as well as loads of others I'd never heard of. I watched electricity-obsessed Electrocute cook a pepper with her "Synth Kitchen", and I couldn't get enough of Rona Geffen's pounding and explicit "hardcore pop." I left the screening feeling inspired and elated, and jumped straight into a party hosted by ISOTOOP.
Set up by Van Anh two years ago, ISOTOOP is one of several local initiatives offering an alternative sound and vision to Rotterdam's main house and techno circuit. Like Raw Chicks, they've become a platform for live and experimental acts to develop their craft in an intimate and encouraging environment. Some of the ISOTOOP family are starting to enjoy international recognition for their efforts, like Nadia Struiwigh, who released her sublime debut album via CPU last year. She opened the EarWORM afterparty with a live set of abstract techno. For other acts, such as Animistic Beliefs, it's just a matter of time before their profile swells. Linh Luu from the duo performed a modular set after Struiwigh, with Van Anh spinning records until close. While Rotterdam can't compete with the nightlife in Berlin, the city's abundance of tenacity and talent nevertheless makes it an exciting place to live.