Take Berlin

It’s funny the things that can happen as a result of finding an old tape deck in a mound of snow in Brooklyn — as well as a subsequent connection made with a stranger at a concert on the Baltic Sea.  At least it was for Brooklyn/Berlin duo Take Berlin.  The discovery in question was made by Jesse Barnes and the stranger was Yvonne Ambree.  Meeting backstage at the Baltic Soul Festival, Barnes and Ambree immediately knew that each was a kindred spirit but only a few weeks later when they met again in Glasgow were they able to spend any appreciable amount of time together.

After countless sleepless nights talking about their respective lives in Brooklyn and Berlin — and a half dozen trips back and forth across the Atlantic to record — Take Berlin’s debut EP, Lionize, was completed.  Drawing from a wide array of influences, including the writing styles of Louis L’Amour and the distinctive fretwork of Joao Gilberto, the duo had a handful of songs that felt unique and approached their own inspirations through a filter of acoustic guitar and Wurlitzer.  All the songs on Lionize were recorded directly to that discarded tape deck and the often skeletal arrangements and gauzy textures bring to mind the series of interconnected events which brought Barned and Ambree together in the first place.

Recently the duo took some time to talk about some of the records which figured heavily in the creation of their debut EP.  From the expressive rock wailing of Jeff Buckley to Bjork’s icy electronica, and including the pastoral folk rock of Father John Misty and Fleet Foxes, they delve headlong into their influences and lay out a complicated and extensive blueprint of Take Berlin’s own sound.  Read their full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.


jeff buckley grace
Jeff Buckley – Grace

I was introduced to this record by two friends –a couple- in high school. It must have been in ’99. Until then my whole music knowledge was influenced by my father (who was a big fan of classical music) and mostly my brother who was a huge collector/listener of Hip-Hop and Soul-records. I never listened to any alternative, rock, indie or even singer/songwriter kind of music. I never really bothered to dig into that style when I was in my teens…until I heard Jeff Buckley for the first time. I never heard a guy sing like that. For me it sounds like he can project so many different emotions all at once – sounding strong and sweet and angry, seductive and moving – all in just one line.

All his lyrics made me wanna get out my German-English dictionary to not miss a single word and meaning he was trying to get to the listener. Every song on that record is meant TO BE. No songs that fill any gaps or work as a “placeholder”. I think “Grace” influenced and marked my way as a musician and songwriter more than any other record. It made me curious to go out there and check out as much artists as I could find (no matter what style and genre).

bjork - homogenic
Björk – Homogenic

This one is definitely my favorite record of her. I think it is even more of a common thing these days to mix electronic music with classical / orchestral arrangements but Homogenic is definitely one of the best ones. This record is just beautiful – Björk sings her heart out accompanied by an orchestra sounding like nothing else could replace it in the slightest way. “Bachelorette” – that´s the one.

Little Dragon – Ritual Union

Although “Twice” is one of my all-time favorite songs Ritual Union is definitely my favorite album by Little Dragon. Yukimi Nagano’s singing style is like no other – a blend of Erykah Badu mixed with traditional Japanese influenced melodies surrounded by electronic beats and old synths made in Sweden. Can it get any better than that? If Take Berlin will ever become more electronic, these guys are definitely some inspiration.

Father John Misty - Fear Fun
Father John Misty (Fear Fun) vs. Fleet Foxes (Fleet Foxes)

I couldn’t decide. I’m a huge fan of both despite of the fact that they DO sound different although it all seems so close. Fear Fun definitely grew on me over the last months. I listened to it because I’m a big Fleet Foxes Fan and I was curious to see what Tillman would be doing on his own. His voice ( for my personal taste) is not as strong and versatile as Pecknolds but I really dig the songs and arrangements on his first solo record as Father John Misty.
Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to see him and his band perform live but Jesse met him at a festival this year and was really impressed by their live performance. So that´s definitely on my list for 2014.


Milton Nasciemento - Clube de Esquina
Milton Nasciemento – Clube de Esquina

Milton’s voice soars over some of the grittiest tracks throughout this gem of the post-bossa period in Brazil. The arrangements are perfect (Deodato I believe), performed by some of the heaviest Brazilian musicians of the time, including Toninho Horta on guitar. I usually prefer bossa nova’s old guard (Joao Gilberto, etc.) to a lot of the later rock/psychedelic records that came out of Brazil, but this one didn’t sacrifice songwriting for the bigger production. I still remember the moment about 7 years ago when a friend of mine dropped the needle on the opening track “Tudo o que voce.” It’s a double LP and if you have the time, listen the whole way through.

Digable Planets - Blowout Comb
Digable Planets – Blowout Comb

Both of their records were influential but these cats elevated the game with Blowout Comb. The record oozes with this Afrocentric, 90’s Brooklyn culture in the most groovin’ way. It’s obvious that they did a lot of investigation…historical, musical, cultural…powerful shit, especially for a 14yr old kid growing up in the Midwest. It’s a concept record for sure and I still feel as transported as the first time I heard it. They will probably always linger in my musical subconscious, no matter what style of music I’m performing or writing.

Take Berlin’s debut EP, Lionize, is out now.