Early Labyrinth, Neukölln’s Wildly Inventive Music Project
By Allison Krupp . November 13, 2019
Neukölln’s innovative, whip-smart and intriguing eight-piece band Early Labyrinth presents their first-ever gig at West Germany this Thursday, November 14.
The band is the brainchild of Christopher Kline (formerly of Hush Hush and Wooden Veil), who recorded the demos himself before assembling the rest of the cult. We had a chat with him about his cutting lyrics, feelings of discontent, and “capitalism as an unsustainable leviathan that makes even its richest participants miserable inside.”
Phew. It gets heavy, which can only mean fantastic things for the upcoming gig. He knows what he’s talking about — and he does it with style.
BLY: Early Labyrinth is pretty different from anything else happening in Berlin. How do you think the reception will be during the first gig?
CK: I remember watching a video of KRS-One giving advice to a young kid who wanted to be a rapper… he was talking about how the most important thing is that you make something for your community, and if you’re in touch with that, everything else follows.
I tried to make this project something a lot of my friends could relate to, that reflects what we’re going through as the world gets crazier than ever, as alienation and disparity are accelerating, as we all get older, it’s a way to make sense of it. So the project might be different from what’s going on musically in Berlin, but I feel it really captures a sensation right now both thematically and musically that a lot of people are going through.
BLY: Really digging the lyrics in the demos. Who are your biggest influences?
CK: All of the songs have a political component to them, whether it’s narrative or explicit or poetic, so in terms of content I was really looking back to bands that opened my eyes when I was a teenager and realizing how, well, horrible the world is.
One of the songs takes part of a chorus from the anarcho-crust band Aus-Rotten. Crust punk is not known for its subtlety, which is what is great about it, but I was also really influenced by people like Billy Bragg, Al Stewart, Kate Bush, Warren Zevon, The Slits, Marvin Gaye, and Joe Strummer, all who travel through many layers of meaning in their work.
BLY: Lots of American-influence here. Where are you from? And how do you feel about the US from over here? Do you think being so far away informs how you write about it?
CK: Yes, a lot of the lyrics have an Americentric focus, and even that term is Americentric because it assumes we’re talking about the USA, not all of the hemisphere.
I’m from a small town in New York State, but have lived in Berlin for a long time now. Living far away from where you’re from definitely affects your sense of self, and the longer you’re away the more you aren’t from anywhere.
Having been very interested in politics from a young age, I’m not so surprised at how things in the US are right now. People like to say “This is not normal”, but I find it completely par for the course if you know anything about US history… it’s a bloody, racist, classist, sexist, manipulative history just like that of the rest of the world.
But in general people are getting more engaged in the world around them, and that’s inspiring.
BLY: How did having an eight-piece band come about? How is the process different?
CK: The demos were written and recorded by me alone, and at the end of the process my friend Aude Levère came in and did some amazing harmonies and backing vocals on five tracks. Then, in order to do a live show, I had to put together a band to play all of the parts.
In the recordings sometimes there are three or four keyboard parts or three simultaneous drum parts so it was a matter of sitting down with each player and deciding what is important to keep and what can be ignored for the live show. We’ve managed to stay surprisingly true to the recordings. We could still use a few more backing vocalists to get that choral sound, but Lisa Klinkhammer is singing with us and she has a great voice to make up for the lack of quantity.
BLY: What would you say is the central thesis of the album of demos?
CK: The songs all revolve around a sense of discontent with the state of the world; at times it’s also about a nostalgia for a more youthful kind of discontent. So a lot of it is based on the personal relationship we all have with society and civilization.
It’s also a lot about history and learning from it. In this sense it’s forward-thinking, as all of the past political stances and formats and systems feel like a giant corpse we’re stuck inside. Capitalism is an unsustainable leviathan that makes even its richest participants miserable inside, not to mention the destruction it brings about through war profiteering, prison systems, etc.
People try to harken back and romanticize early 20th-Century systems and beliefs, whether it’s communism, fascism, neoliberalism, or anything from way back when… but they’ve all become stale, status quo in a way. We are just not in that era of early industrialization any more. People today have different problems. The majority of people around the world continue to live in poverty, neglected and abused. And they’re pitted against each other by opportunists. So I’m looking to a new generation of political thought, based on what’s happening on the ground, not in theory. And trying to stay idealistic about it because as much as I hate humanity, I do like people.
BLY: What should people expect at the gig on Thursday?
CK: Blaue Form, a new synth composition project by my old friend Dominik Noé, will play first and he’s been working with programming hardware to make these rhythmic ambient works, so I think a lot of people are excited to hear what he’s been making. R&D are playing second and they have been working away on new material as well. They recently did the Amplify Berlin program to develop some tracks and will be delivering their existential experience from an inflatable couch. Early Labyrinth will bring the funk.
BLY: How do you perceive the current Berlin music scene? Do you think it’s vibrant, thriving, or is lacking in some way?
CK: There’s so much bubbling in Berlin right now, and I don’t think a lot of people realize the quantity of great bands and projects… I myself am still trying to tap into it. I think it’s actually really thriving, but under the radar and a bit dispersed.
Kevin from Shameless/Limitless is doing a great job of trying to pull it together for people… He and The Chop did No Kiddin’ Festival in September and it was great to see so many Berlin-based bands I’d never heard of before. Feels like something is about to happen outside of the club scene Berlin is more known for.
BLY: Can you talk about Kinderhook & Caracas? How did you start it, and what is its mission?
CK: Kinderhook & Caracas is a project space I started with my wife Sol Calero back in 2011. We mostly focus on solo exhibitions by Berlin-based artists, and increasingly on more complex projects which layer artistic practices, like the TV Network CONGLOMERATE we produced along with Ethan Hayes-Chute, Derek Howard and Dafna Maimon from 2016-2018. You can watch it all at www.conglomerate.tv. As we’ve progressed, the projects have gotten more and more rich and it’s been a great way to get involved with a lot of different artists. We’ll continue with more exhibitions and projects next spring.
Shameless/Limitless: Early Labyrinth ~1st Show~ R&D + Blaue Form
November 14th. Facebook event here
Skalitzer Str. 133