- Finn Johannsen is fast becoming one of my favourite DJs. At a recent night at Panorama Bar, he seemed effortlessly in control, presiding over the early shift at the famed Berlin venue. Johannsen didn't provide much material from the Macro label that he helps run, which had taken over the upstairs space at Berghain for the night. The tunes themselves, rather than the organizing force of a label perspective or DJ brand name, seemed to be the guide. Kirk Degiorgio's "Isidora" wove its way in around the halfway mark. Its luxurious, curiously indifferent bass note reverberated off the concrete and steel walls, just as the room began to fill.
Johannsen was low-key throughout, letting the excitement build for the reclusive Oni Ayhun, who showed up to take over at 3 AM. Ayhun had a stage set-up by the window, complete with a few pictures of sailboats and pastoral scenes arranged on the wall behind him. But the main visual attraction was Ayhun himself, who was painted from bald head down to trainers in fluorescent silver, including a rather fetching asymmetrical blazer. All this was a good gesture for an audience who expected a lot: Oni Ayhun Records have released four sterling 12-inches, and Oni's only previous 2010 appearance was a live show geared towards the ambient sound/performance art end of the spectrum at Berlin's Club Transmediale festival.
But the riled-up Pan Bar crowd need not have feared. An hour of eerie, adept live techno followed, with all of the Ayhun records aired out, often connected by sluggish grooves that threatened to disintegrate into machine indifference. Ayhun always pulled things back to a more human tempo just in time to keep the dance floor on target. The climax came as expected with the warmer, melodic sounds of OAR 003 B. An extended workout of those beautiful, resonant chords couldn't fail to please, but it also suggested what had become a little too clear in the course of the set: Ayhun needs to find a way to connect the dots a little better between the human appeal that coursed through the finale and the alkaline, alien funk that animates his other beats.
A little past five, the party was in full swing. The cancellation of Peter Kruder meant that Stefan Goldmann was tasked with picking up from Oni and plowing straight through to headline material. From the moment he took to the decks, Goldmann swathed the room in huge, velvety kick drums, and an appreciation of the physical possibilities of the sweaty, cheek-by-jowl crowd writhed from the metal windows to the bar and back to the DJ booth. Goldmann kept things locked on the taut, precisely controlled house sound he has made his own. The operatic flourishes and grand gestures that outrun the unremarkable tech house skeletons of Goldmann's own tracks made more sense in that moment than ever before. "Art of Sorrow" and "Yes to All" seemed at home as the follow-up to Ayhun's performance: These tracks inhabit a space when played on big speakers, and affect the textures and perceptions in a room in a way that isn't possible to appreciate when considering their eccentricities on home monitors.
nd_baumecker was the mid-morning follow up to Goldmann. He seems to have split into the half of the Berghain residents who stay rooted in the club rather than branching out to touring careers. An update of CLS' "Can You Feel It" promised great things to come into Sunday afternoon, but we were losing focus. DJ Pete was deep into a ravaging set downstairs, pushing the BPMs high and the excitement higher. Even a gelato drizzled with Campari from the bar tucked away on the far side of the main dance floor couldn't perk us up enough to try and add our feeble impediments to Berghain's tumultuous reverberations.
A keen awareness of the social possibilities of a club where the gigantic upstairs barmaid barked at me like a dog was—by this time—perfectly melted into memories of Macro sized treats. What so many who gush about the hedonism that takes place in Berghain's recesses gloss over is the comfort of the club and the incredible depth of talent from the resident DJs. Only an incredible confluence of cultural and artistic factors could have given birth to a baby like Berghain/Panorama. The Macro crew proved more than equal to the space, and secure in that knowledge, we scampered home for a lunchtime sleep and the unsuccessful dream of stumbling back to the club for Prosumer at seven.