Review: Arma X at Funkhaus, Berlin
Last weekend, ARMA fans from Russia and the rest of the world headed to Funkhaus; a stunning east Berlin venue with sought-after recording spaces, formerly a GDR radio broadcasting building. After visiting last year, we knew that Funkhaus would be the perfect venue for the Moscow-based promoter; who programmed an impressive, eclectic lineup spanning across techno, house and experimental acts over 30 hours.
Sipping a cocktail in the foyer just outside of Saal 1 and Saal 2, two huge studio rooms, we made our way to check out the concerts planned for Saturday night; a pretty sophisticated start to this marathon event. Menacing, robotic sounds from acts such as Gnod, Shit & Shine, and Mai Mai Mai punched from the floor through your entire body, pushing the sound system in Saal 2 to its limits with fuzzy synths and crashing percussion. Over in Saal 1, Jan Jelinek, Hanno Leichtmann and Andrew Pekler played as Groupshow, an act which first made its debut in Berlin around a decade ago. They masterfully performed pieces like ‘Countdown To Naptime’, and the lighting remained still; with an overhead view of their set up.
In contrast, later on, flashing projections with political and other nostalgia from the entire 20th century, along with clashing industrial and electro sounds introduced Cabaret Voltaire, aka Richard h Kirk, who continues to produce new music under their name. As the live set progressed, the pace quickened. The crowd was hooked and eager to dance, the moving silhouettes made for some stunning scenes in Saal 1. This was something unique and was definitely our favourite performance from the event. It’s interesting to see things moving forward with Cabaret Voltaire, rather than revisiting their old material.
As they closed Saal 1, we followed the corridor, not quite knowing where we were going. It leads straight into the Kultursaal, another stunning retro room, where we were greeted by Binh playing his blend of classy techno and electro with an installation as the backdrop: flashing lights, rotating circles and a spinning X. Smoke filled the room and there were tonnes of space to dance. We were surprised to see such a well-planned and anticipated event feel so spacious, but this was, of course, a good thing.
Exploring the venue was a treat. Several art installations were placed throughout the building, and the moves between the classy studio rooms to the rugged warehouse spaces created a very special home for ARMA’s 10th-anniversary celebration, and the music programming suited all of them perfectly.
As the light crept in on this gloomy Sunday morning, we enjoyed a minimalistic set from Denis Kaznacheev, as well as live sets from Half Hawaii and Mathew Jonson. Over in the warehouse in the Catwalk Bar, Etapp Kyle hammered out his usual hard-hitting techno; a red light flooded the room and a sculptured horse installation protruded from behind the decks. The grey, moody atmosphere switched up as the sun made an appearance in the afternoon, and we took some time to sit outside overlooking the river spree. A fifth room was now open: we relaxed in MONOM, and appreciated its impressive 4D sound system.
On Sunday afternoon, word quickly got around that Nicolas Lutz wasn’t able to play; but the disappointment was soon forgotten as soon as the Romanians took to the decks. The room filled as Rhadoo, Petre and Raresh eased us into Sunday evening with their signature subtle, groovy techno and house: playing tracks like Astrovibe – Retro Activity and rounding things off with Nopax – Back On Funk, all effortlessly and seamlessly mixed, of course. Everyone was smiling and cheering; it was the ideal end to an incredible event.
All in all, ARMA has seriously set the bar high for parties. And in light of its past problems with the closure of its club and the shutdown of Outline festival, as well as recent events in Tbilisi concerning nightclub Bassiani, the 10th anniversary and the brands continued global success is great to see.
Words by Amy Hocknell.