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Review: Bianca Ludewig, Utopie und Apokalypse in der Popmusik. Gabber und Breakcore in Berlin. Wien 2018

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Book review at si-blog.net

The cover of Bianca Ludewig‘s bookshows a T-shirt at the hardcore-techno parade called “Fuckparade” in Berlin. The t-shirt says “200 BPM”, i.e. 200 beats per minute. Music that many people find pleasant is in the range of 100 to 120 BPM, i.e. 2 beats per second, with the wearer of the T-shirt and the other participants of the Fuckparade we are dealing with fans of much faster music. How are these speeds and the associated sound worlds, in the music styles Gabber and Breakcore, connected with utopian and apocalyptic ideas? And what is it about this Fuckparade,where is danced through the city to hard fast music, in protests against gentrification? This book addresses these questions. The text leads us from the theory of investigating sound worlds, to Steve Goodman, Jochen Bonz, Kodwo Eshun, Jeremy Gilbert, among others, to the genealogy of hardcore techno (history and aesthetics of Gabber and Breakcore) and to the case study on Berlin – which has been worked out with interviews – and finally to the Fuckparade. The text draws on the author’s master’s thesis, which she submitted in 2012 after raving field studies with after-hour note sessions. Something remarkable happened in the period after that, there was a retro- and neo-hype about Gabba (p. 88), the original protagonists since the 90s go through their memories, the fan communities, whose internet forums were already orphaned, put collected (video) material online, thus in 2018 the author revised the study, and conducted a new round of research and interviews. In particular, the sources online had evolved, comprehensive video material had found its way into the cloud, and many sound recordings are circulating in digital form. A theoretical facet seems to be very remarkable here, not only did the rave culture at its core make a step from the performance of music by means of instruments to the playing of recordings, now with the digitalization the sound world shifts even further, not only away from the concert to the DJ, but even more to the audience. This goes hand in hand with the increasing autonomy of sound worlds as sonic fictions (p. 60f.). The questions in the book are thus highly contemporary, pervious approaches such as those of Goodman and Eshun are also being updated through that.

Those who know Bianca Ludewig, from her journalistic work or her participation in networks of critical cultural production – such as Female Pressure, for example – may agree with me that a restriction of her work lies in its birth as a master’s thesis, in some parts it might have been desirable to bring in her own theory more stemming from her own practice. This is certainly due to the academic format in which the author nonetheless manages to write an extraordinary study that takes the protagonists of the speed tribes seriously and comprehensively explains what it’s all about when 200 BPM roar through the city. The book is not only urgently needed to methodically soundly process and preserve memories during the retro- and neo-hype, but in my opinion also the necessary corrective to the great narrative of the hedonistic raving society, which is nowadays valued as the central axis of Berlin’s tourism and start-up economy from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce to the party mayor. As the closing chapter of the book makes clear, the story does not end with the Fuckparade, under the keyword “Resilience” it is also about the potentials of the hardcore continuum – so the apocalypse again becomes a utopia (p. 260).

With this book we can trace the material sound worlds and the physical-mental emotional worlds of hardcore culture, historically situated and through voices and memories of the participants, in an antagonism to the current shituationistic dance in the ruins of gentrification and commodification that is the world of many clubbers, the book thus provides a materialist history of rave.

Bianca Ludewig: Utopie und Apokalypse in der Popmusik. Gabber und Breakcore in Berlin, Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Europäische Ethnologie, Band 47, Wien 2018. ISBN 978-3-902029-32-4, 21 €

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