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Review: Paul Kalkbrenner and Sasha at Ushuaïa

Sometimes it all just comes together perfectly...

By Jordan Smith

Arriving midway through a warm-up set from the two lovely ladies behind Blond:ish, my companion and I nabbed what we considered some of the best seats in the house, sat around the edge of the baby pool, feet dangling into the warm water, steadily pruning to perfection. After a few tracks from Blond:ish I formulated the words ‘total babes but nothing to write home about, musically’ in my mind, but by the end of their set silently reprimanded myself for being such a presumptuous snob. These girls delivered what eventually evolved into a great warm up set; it was funky as anything and had me dancing well before I’d planned on relinquishing my poolside position.

Next up, the instigator and orchestrator of this little shindig – Sasha himself.  For a DJ who is well known for acutely moody techno, he took things in a more melodic, accessible direction, to compliment the headliner to come.  Opening with Frank Wiedemann & Ry Cuming - Howling (Âme remix), Sasha slowly developed over half an hour from this soothing falsetto to an upbeat house classic in SlamEterna (Digweed and Nick Muir remix). Sasha continued to build, with many individual tracks having wonderfully suspenseful and explosive moments in themselves. Things got a bit darker in the latter half of his set, as he headed towards the classic Sasha stomping ground, then smoothed out again for a gorgeous finale, rolling Flutes from the latest Hot Chip album into All That Matters by Kölsch, a track I think you’ll be hearing a lot more of in weeks to come.

All of this had been enjoyed from our new favourite position up the back; nevermind VIP – the baby pool was going off last night. From an eager and unassuming reveler rocking a body roll and grape vine simultaneously in one gloriously demented move, to back flips, conga-lines and impromptu group photos, the pool became a very sociable watering hole, with strangers coming together over a splash and a boogie. And at this point I will impart an invaluable Ushuaïa party tip – many of the outdoor showerheads surrounding the pool are still working in the evening. Go forth – and do your worst.

Now it was time for Berlin’s most mainstream techno export - Paul Kalkbrenner. I did not expect to be surprised by this set. Having seen Kalkbrenner in a variety of settings, I am well accustomed to his style. As Kalkbrenner will be the first to admit – he’s really no DJ, rarely playing anything but his own tunes and even indulging in a cheeky habit of letting some songs play out in full during a set, and enjoying the generous (though artificially induced) applause. He’s right – his production is good enough to stand up on it’s own, but since we have a pretty good idea of the music that’s coming, what one is looking for from a concert like this is atmosphere; last night delivered on that by the bucket-load.

Booming from the impressive open-air Ushuaïa stage, and coupled with an excellent visual show, came Gutus Nitzwork from the album Icke Wieder, mixed into a sample of Praise You – just incase Fatboy Slim hadn’t played that in the last 4 hours . . . Icke Wieder dominated the first half of the set (my favourites Jestruepp and Kleines Bubu both got an airing), whilst Berlin Calling was the theme of the second, Kalkbrenner filling out the bottom-end of all tracks to make them really rave-worthy.  In addition to the album favourites, we were also treated to his sexy little remix of Michel Cleis’ La Mezcla, and Das Gezabel, the first single from his new album released that very day.

Shocking no one and pleasing everyone, Kalkbrenner closed with Sky and Sand, featuring the vocals of his brother Fritz Kalkbrenner. Emotional techno at its best, this moment was coupled with an explosion of golden confetti (the only one of the night) and caused such uproarious applause that he had to jog out for an encore (Aaron). Then with a sudden twist of the relevant knob (wouldn’t want to bore you with my…er… extensive technical knowledge) it was all over.

Individually, both Paul Kalkbrenner and Ushuaïa have left me disillusioned at times; the combination of the two, however, is stellar. Add cracking sets from Blond:ish and Sasha and you get my favourite night at Ushuaïa so far.

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