Concert review: SUUNS at the Berghain

Suuns by Nick Helderman

Suuns played the Berghain last night. Whoever booked the gig got them the perfect venue. The concrete pillars ten meters high, the steel staircases, a cold and smoky environment; just what was needed to enjoy the blend of modern electronics and more traditional rock which Suuns play.

The band was scheduled after Tellavision, a young German who looped her voice over industrial drum patterns and played some abstract pop. It seemed there were three singers on stage but it was only her effect pedals which triple tracked her voice.

When Suuns finally came on stage, their name was spelled out in big white inflated letters which contrasted with the obscured room. We wouldn’t see the letters anymore. Someone turned the lights off and on came the RGB beams which fitted with the visible emergency exit signs around the room.

Suuns is composed of three jazz-trained musicians who have spent time listening to minimal electronic music. This is felt in their songs. Deconstructed rhythms, martial drums sometimes on the brink of cacophony, keyboards which play this dooming partition. Trying to describe it is complicated. Is it rock tinged electronic music or the other way around? It doesn’t fit in the krautrock or psychedelic sections of a record shop, their music is much broader than a simple genre.

Repetitive schemes are what make Suuns suited for dance floors

This is an act where nothing is left to chance. No improvisation is to be expected. Instruments follow the same patterns throughout songs. These repetitive schemes are what make Suuns suited for dance floors. They rely on heavy delay effects for their guitars, bass sounds – which vary lightly – originate from the keyboards, and the drums are greatly amplified. Their live performance is a carbon copy of their recording performance.

A great example of how repetitions can create a state of trance is “Translate”, a krautrock-y song through which variations on the guitar during the whole song create this sense of excitement. Thumping drums, slide guitar and undulating bass sounds coming from the keyboards. Here’s another one. Take Ben Shemie’s singing on “Resist”: he tells us to resist by bursts. He is accompanied by regular drumbeats, a machine gun like guitar and humming shamanic keyboards. This repeats itself over a minute or so, they then stop except for Shemie and the drummer, play the middle section with more melody and go back to the intro verse.

Something unique others should at least try grasping

Suuns played half of Hold/Still and nearly all the songs of Images du Futur. They added two or three songs from Zeroes, QC and the setlist ends up sounding quite good. There are however some moments -“Brainwash” in this instance – when they go over to brostep, a song with fascinatingly unpleasant transitions. It starts out with lovely singing, before the singing stops and the drums and keyboards overwhelm the audience. It goes through two more of these sections before it ends on Shemie repeating the word “brainwash” over a harpsichord-like guitar.

Other than that, it was very enjoyable. This is no ordinary band and I can’t think of any other getting close to how Suuns sound. No joke here about the Earth revolving around Suuns and what not. They do however have something unique others should at least try grasping, for the sake of music. The band members aren’t explorers in a musical Age of Discovery, they have all they need laying around them. They pick out pre-existing sounds and effects, process them and present their take on modern music. This broadening of scope is beneficial to the audience, to the band and to the music industry as a whole. Over and out.

Review by Patrick Bird

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