Ellen Allien ditches Berlin for Igloofest

German DJ and BPitch Control label founder Ellen Allien is coming to Montreal tomorrow, to play outside. She spoke to Cult MTL about changing climates, Berlin vs. Ibiza, her latest record LISm and why it doesn’t figure into her sets.

Ellen Allien, suiting up for Igloofest tomorrow night

If you see a German woman walking around the Old Port this Thursday looking cold, for God’s sake, give her your coat, boots, mittens and tuque. Berlin electronic mainstay and BPitch Control label founder Ellen Allien is playing Igloofest that night but, like many travelling DJs, has been forced to pack for one climate too many. Allien’s detour from Berlin to Montreal involved New Year’s in Tokyo, then Italy, then directly to Mexico before coming up to play New York and Montreal.

“I have some friends in Montreal, so hopefully they have the same shoe size as me,” Allien jokes via Skype in Mexico. “I had to pack for European weather, Mexican weather and New York weather. But when the other DJs are performing, I want to be in the crowd, to see how it feels.”

Allien’s also in the midst of distilling her 10,000-plus record collection onto four hard drives, but seeing, and waddling among, all us “penguin ravers” (as she affectionately called Igloofesters) will have an effect on what she’ll be playing here — she envisions throwing down a lot of old-school Detroit and U.K. sounds.

“I lived in Ibiza for six months this past year to do a residency,” she explains, “and it was the first time I lived away from Berlin in many years, and the music I played changed 100 per cent when I was there. Then, when I got back to Berlin, I was depressed for about two weeks because there was no sun and I missed the sea, and my music changed again. I’m thinking for Igloofest it’ll be a bit harder, more powerful.”

One thing Allien won’t be playing is her upcoming album, LISm (rhymes with “listen”). The music from LISm was originally a one-shot deal — a soundtrack she composed for Alexandre Roccoli and Sevérine Rième’s dance show Drama per Musica. After a single performance at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 2011, Allien sat on the music for a year before re-recording much of it and adding a personal touch to the lyrics.

“Before, the story was without my words. The lyrics and the story were completely different than now,” Allien explains, adding that the original story combined nautical themes with the sensation of being in a dark dance club. “I changed it, made it more of a personal diary about love and my feelings.”

As such, Allien says the ambient LISm, which includes her own vocals and a host of analog instruments, isn’t designed for the club or dancing at all. “I listen to it a lot while cooking at home with friends. It’s a nice soundtrack which can be on when I’m doing something else, and it creates a nice atmosphere. It’s not dark, but maybe it’s a little bit freaky, which I like. Freakiness can be a little bit dangerous, but it can also bring you out of your standards or normal structures.

“There’s one friend of mine, who’s a very creative person, who parties a little too much these days,” Allien continues. “We were cooking and the music was playing in the background, and I didn’t tell her it was mine, and she said, ‘What is this? It’s driving me crazy!’ I was happy she reacted that way; there was an emotion that came to her, something that was already inside her just came out. So when you listen to it at home, like when you’re cooking, it can bring you somewhere.” ■

Ellen Allien plays Igloofest with Miss Kittin* and Alicia Hush at the Jacques-Cartier Pier in the Old Port on Thursday, Jan. 24, 10 p.m., $18.50

*Get an eyeful of Igloofest’s first weekend via Cult MTL‘s photo gallery

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