Time Out presents The Other Side Berlin
Time Out presents The Other Side Los Angeles
(Time Out / Deaf Dumb + Blind)
Record Reviews by Adam McKibbin
Time Out is often the first refuge of tourists feeling like strangers in a strange land, but can also help locals dig beneath the surface and keep tabs on what’s bubbling up in their city. The Other Side CD/DVD series is dedicated to both causes. To help their authenticity level, Time Out sought out a highly respected representative of each city in the series, turned them loose for a mix CD, and then followed them around with cameras for an off-the-beaten-path tour of shopping, restaurants, nightlife, and miscellany.
Earlier editions included New York (Fischerspooner), London (Damien Lazarus) and Paris (Black Strobe). For Berlin, there was one clear-cut choice: Ellen Allien, who for years has been one of the most effective cheerleaders in music. Her Bpitch Control label has helped Berlin establish a claim as one of the cutting edge cities in the music world, and she’s always been quick to sing the city’s praises. Her DVD tour makes it clear that Berlin is pretty much as cool as cool as you’ve heard; while in danger of eventual overhype and overpricing, it remains affordable enough to serve as a refuge for artists of all types. Locals may find a few new haunts - Allien and Time Out dwell particularly on some eclectic shopping choices - while visitors will be looking for airfare shortly after finishing.
One of the flaws of The Other Side is that the filmmakers spend too much time idly following their hosts; how many shots of Allien doing not-too-much-really in a shop do we really need? And how many loops of the same song do we need to hear?
Allien’s CD reliably blends larger names like Miss Kittin and Monolake with more obscure cuts, even reaching for an American punk band’s tribute to her city with Wayne County & The Electric Chairs’ “Berlin.” David Bowie’s “Helden” (“Heroes” in German) leads things off, and Allien and Apparat’s “Way Out” (from last year’s outstanding collaboration Orchestra of Bubbles) serves as another highlight. She chooses cuts from artists who may have gotten their start elsewhere, like Miss Kittin and Plastikman, but have gravitated to Berlin. All of which makes perfect sense, this being a travelogue and an exercise in civic pride and all…
Which all makes Madlib’s dud collection more puzzling. Faced with an enormous array of genre-spanning Angeleno artists, from the iconic to the undiscovered, Madlib brings in Dabrye to announce “Detroit make the world go round.” Whaaa? Sun Ra Arkestra’s “Nuclear War” is timely, sure, but even if you divorce Sun Ra from his native Alabama, his Wikipedia entry adequately sums up his career trajectory by dividing his time into “The Chicago Years,” “The New York Years” and “The Philadelphia Years.” So while the mixture of soul, funk, free jazz and reggae is decent enough - and it’s not great - it doesn’t have all that much to do with the city it’s supposedly helping define. Ultimately, a basic compilation from Stones Throw Records would have been a better offering.
Speaking of which, Madlib passes the baton to Stones Throw mastermind Peanut Butter Wolf for the DVD tour. Wolf seems like a down-to-earth dude, and offers some interesting shout-outs; due to its incredible sprawl, L.A. is a city where it’s even easier than usual for something cool to go unnoticed by the masses. In this case, The Other Side provides greater value to residents than soon-to-be tourists; if you’re going out for the first time, you can’t beat a day at the beach or driving up the PCH followed by an evening at the Hollywood Bowl, no matter how many people have done it before you.