Derek Robertson

Freelance writer and editor: Guardian, Independent, NME, VICE, Timeout, The Quietus

Hush Now: In The Studio With Balmorhea

Saal 3 at Berlin’s Funkhaus is a glorious throwback, an old school recording space from the 1950s that’s been filled with some seriously high spec equipment. The whole complex, nestled next to the River Spree in a gritty, industrial wedge in the city’s east, was the former GDR broadcast centre, designed by architects and acousticians to be world-class in every way; at the time of its completion, it was the largest and most sophisticated recording facility anywhere on the planet.

Urban Sprawl: How Hip Hop Conquered Europe

For a stark reminder of how completely rap and hip hop has taken over mainstream culture, consider the case of NWA. Thirty years ago, the group released a song that so incensed the authorities and white America – ‘Fuck tha Police’, taken from their debut studio album Straight Outta Compton – that the FBI felt compelled to write a letter to the band’s label and distributing company complaining that “advocating violence and assault is wrong and we, in the law enforcement community, take exception to such action.” Police started to refuse to provide security for their concerts and, condemned by politicians, for a short while they revelled in their status as “the world’s most dangerous group.”

Blanck Mass 'Animated Violence Mild' Review

Hubris is a terrible thing to have to admit to. Watching the world fall apart and literally burn in real time is a particularly disorientating experience but really, do we have anyone to blame but ourselves? Benjamin John Power doesn’t think so. “We throw ourselves out of our own garden,” he writes in the press release for Animated Violence Mild, his fourth record as Blanck Mass. “We poison ourselves to the edges of an endless sleep.” It’s a bleak image for bleak times. Biblical parallels are f

Meet Lewsberg, Rotterdam's Answer To The Velvet Underground

From the outside, Rotterdam might not seem like a hotbed of underground culture and creativity. But the Dutch city has a long history of nurturing mavericks and misfits artists defiantly pleasing no-one but themselves. Lewsberg, a four-piece whose arty, lo-fi college rock rumble has drawn comparisons to The Velvet Underground, Television and The Modern Lovers, fit this mould perfectly – alongside a fierce independent streak.

The Visual: The NME Interview

To listen to The Visual is to escape: from this world, from life, from yourself. “I’m really good at daydreaming,” explains The Visual’s singer and guitarist Anna van Rij. “This is what I try to do with the music, to get people lost in the song. To give them space to forget the present.” Such an approach harks back to when van Rij first met co-founder Timon Persoon at Amsterdam’s Conservatorium and the pair would spend hours dreaming up fictional soundtracks and entire sonic worlds.

Tshegue 'Telema EP' Review

Tshegue are a duo born from pure musical joy. Their debut EP, 2017’s Survivor, was an intoxicating blend of Congolese guitars and garage rock, a cosmopolitan Afropunk where every note fizzed with energy and threatened to burst through the speakers. Partly, this was a nod to heritage; the clattering, rackety rhythms and head-spinning electro recall singer Faty Sy Savanet’s native Kinshasa, a vibrant, music-obsessed city where sounds blare constantly from shops and homes.

Next Wave #908: Lewsberg

Lewsberg are a band who revel in doing things in their own, understated way. Hailing from Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, the four-piece – Arie van Vliet (guitar and vocals), Michiel Klein (guitar), Shalita Dietrich (bass), Dico Kruijsse (drums) – are very much the product of their idiosyncratic hometown, a place van Vliet describes as having “room for everyone, no matter how poor or ugly or strange,” and containing “a lot of functionalism, a lot of concrete, a lot of things and people without frills."

A Different Kind Of Weird: dEUS on The Ideal Crash

For once, Tom Barman is apprehensive. Not about tonight’s dEUS show, but the two-hour DJ set he’s been booked to play at the official after party. “What has happened in the past is this miscommunication with people,” he explains as we lounge on a terrace in the late afternoon sunshine. “They expect me to play rock, and then I play electro.” Electro? “Yeah, deep house, techno, drum’n’bass, indie house, glitch, trap, whatever you want. It’s just fucking dance music."

Way Out East: DiS Does Sharpe Festival 2019

Amidst the many panels and workshops at Bratislava’s Sharpe Festival, one stood out. Titled “Good-hearted Promotion or Downright Spam”, it looked at the role of PR in the digital age and how artists – and, indeed, labels and journalists – could benefit from the services of a seasoned professional. A key issue for many in attendance was how to break through online noise, and how to achieve traction – and exposure – beyond their own borders. There is, of course, no easy answer.

A Chance To Shine: The Rise Of The Showcase

Glance at any current Festival Guide, and it’s immediately apparent just how much the number of music events has grown over the last decade or so. In the UK alone, the figure has doubled; there are now well over 1000 festivals catering to around 3.5 million people annually. Yet it’s not just heavily branded, three-day summer parties in green fields and parks that have proliferated, there’s been a marked rise in city-based and one-day events too as the whole festival ecosystem has shifted towards smaller, more focused events. And within this shift, one particular type of event seems to be in good health indeed – the showcase festival.

Kick Out The Jams: Kikagaku Moyo Interviewed

Is there a harder working band than Kikagaku Moyo? Over the past two years alone the acclaimed Japanese psych rockers have released two albums and one EP, toured both the US and Europe three times, and racked up dates across China and Australia (not to mention countless festival appearances and collaborations across the globe). “We all write four or five songs a month,” says drummer and vocalist Go Kurosawa of their prolificacy during lunch on a rare day off, “and add them to our Dropbox.”

This Mess We’re In: Music Journalism In The Digital Age

For anyone harbouring optimistic thoughts about the future of journalism, it’s been a sobering start to the year. BuzzFeed and HuffPost, leading players whose viral content and revenue-per-click strategy were once considered groundbreaking, laid off over 1,000 employees, while Condé Nast, the media conglomerate that owns publications such as GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired, and Pitchfork, announced that by the end of the year all its titles will be behind paywalls.

TBC: Sign Of The (Stage) Times

John Wanamaker, an American merchant in the late 19th Century, knew a thing or two about business. “When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is King!” he once declared, a maxim that saw him establish several department stores in Philadelphia and a billion dollar fortune. Wanamaker’s famous proclamation is often misattributed – and misquoted – but in commercial circles, the maxim holds true to this day; more often than not, businesses go out of their way to ensure customer satisfaction, even when they might have valid reasons not to.
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