As Open Source Festival draws to a close for the eleventh year, we take a look at the festival, the music and the city that made it happen – Düsseldorf.
When you think of Germany’s rich electronic musical background, Berlin is surely the first city that springs to mind, however one of the most important artists in that timeline, Kraftwerk, emerged out of the vibrant art scene of 1970’s Düsseldorf. It’s rich history and art school has created some of the most diverse and experimental music over the last 40 years, though somewhat overshadowed for some in more recent times by its local brother Cologne. While their neighbours may have a more prominent underground electronic music scene, there is a strong cultural movement emerging from Düsseldorf, moving at it’s own speed and held together at the core by a burgeoning art movement.
We met with Phillip Maiburg, founder of Open Source, on the afternoon before the festival at the famous Kling Klang / Elektro Müller studio, once home to the avant-garde Kraftwerk. The studio has been mythologised over the years, however to the vast majority of natives in Düsseldorf it seems to have gone unnoticed, and many are even unaware of it’s existence. It is this indifference which has allowed the building to go unchanged over the years, and when the opportunity came across for Phillip to purchase the studio last year, it seemed an obvious choice.
In the lead up to the festival, Phillip hosted a series of shows dubbed ‘Live at Elektro Müller’, bringing together some of Düsseldorf’s most renowned electronic musicians, alongside up and coming artists from the ‘Young Talent’ stage. The setting was intimate, with low ceilings and little room for a mixing desk. Performances ranged in genre and style and with small audiences crammed into the studio space, though for Phillip it’s all about the process and the sound. Many of the artists who performed emerged out of the Kunstakademie (Art Academy), and this project is an extension of that, bringing together the city’s cultural history with the sound of the new.
It’s the same attention to detail and process that runs through the festival, now at the Galopprenbahn (Horse Race Course), the main stage sits at the bottom of the bleachers, allowing a perfect view from the top of the hill to catch the likes of Hot Chip’s headline slot. A short walk across the site and you’re presented with the Carharrt WIP stage, a smaller more intimate setting, catering to the more left field sounds. Idriss Ackamoor and the Pyramids opened up early on, donning not-so-understated, bright gold ancestral robes. Reminiscent of Sun Ra’s cosmic jazz fusion, Ackamoor bounces between lyrics of spirituality and humanity’s African origins, atop a backbone of synthesisers and violin screeches.
Later in the day brought Tartelets’s Max Graef accompanied by his band to the WIP stage. After 2014’s ‘Rivers Of The Red Planet’ sent a shockwave throughout the electronic scene, showcasing his ability to fuse dusty jazz production skills and leaning towards the sounds of hiphop beat makers Madlib and J Dilla, Graef returns in a live setting, front centre stage, bass guitar in hand. Rarely breaking gaze from his band mate adjacent on Rhodes keys, what results is a fifty minute jazz-funk set with an almost complete improvisation feel, led by Graef’s bass melodies and intricate runs.
For the second year in a row the festival has played host to the Young Talent stage, a small office container with an open front, an idea which Phillip Maiburg explained “aimed to reflect the lack of affordable practice areas available to up and coming bands in the city”. Over 100 applicants were whittled down to 8 emerging artists who performed on the day. Brookland kicked things off at the festival, a young two-piece from Dortmund, with their take on shoegaze pop, shimmering lofi guitar atop a backbone of considered drum hits.
Walking around the race course, you’re confronted with an assortment of thoughtful art installations that interact with environment around. Put together by the Kunsthochschule für Median Köln (Academy for Media and Arts), the project, titled ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They’, transformed the ticket offices, bookies and horse boxes into an artistic practice, with video installations, sound sculptures and experimental films.
NTS Radio provided the musical obscurities while tucked away in a quiet corner of the festival, broadcasting from the iconic cubed hut, the familiar voice of Trevor Jackson was accompanied by Toulouse Low Trax and Rearview Radio. The NTS crew had a full schedule throughout the weekend; Friday evening saw them set up in the local Carharrt store, open to the general public, with the promise of free drinks and a live broadcast from Jackson himself, and local producer and founder of the Salon des Amateurs; Detlef Weinrich.
The pair teamed up for an extended set at the Salon des Amateurs going into the early hours of Saturday morning. Situated at the Kunsthalle (art hall), a club that poses as a coffee shop by day, the intimate setting had low ceilings and speakers hung above your head as the sound resonates on top of the crowd. The venue holds huge importance for the art and music scene of the city, one of the only hangouts where like minded people from both scenes can get together, with no musical agenda, its a place for expression and quiet anarchy.
Their set reflected the laid back nature of the whole affair, selecting records with a disregard for tempo or genre. Detlef breaking away every now and then to pour shots of vodka, as they flicked between krautrock, obscure techno and experimental oddities, each as uncompromising as Jackson’s weekly radio show.
The NRW Forum hosted the festival afterparty, located opposite the Kunstakademie the gallery is the centrepiece of culture within the city, exhibiting the best of Düsseldorf’s modern art scene. Currently host to the ‘Planet B – 100 ideas for a new world’ exhibition, based on Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’, the installation will house artists, designers, researchers and architects as they present their ideas for the 22nd century. The artists are given time, hidden away from society to showcase these ideas, and ultimately realise them through the exhibition and public installations.
It is this attention to the process which flows throughout the art and music scene of Düsseldorf, giving artists the creative freedom and time to realise their ideas. Not always focusing on the outcome but on the creative journey. The open-mindedness of the Salon draws it’s lifeblood from the art scene and this rings true throughout the festival. Open Source on the surface appeals to a mass audience, however when you peel away its layers it’s a grass roots project, rejecting mainstream advertising, dedicated to the artistic process and a reflection of the city and culture it was born from.
Thanks to Phillip Marburg & NRW Kultur International