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Kara knew that Mike was English, that he’d lived in Berlin for something like seven or nine years, mostly in the same apartment on Sonnenallee, meaning Mike’s rent was gut-punch low.

She knew that Mike sometimes worked as a German-to-English translator, so while she had rarely heard him use his German—in bars, cafes, that one time they went camping in Brandenburg—she knew it was of a high level.

She’d introduced Mike to the woman he was still dating, over tacos that Kara made from scratch—tortillas and all—for ten or so friends last December.

His taste in music was broad-ranging, brilliantly so, Mike having sent her 4GB of RAR-compressed FLAC files via WeTransfer that included Abdullah Ibrahim, Jon Hassell, Mustapha Skandrani and many other (admittedly mostly male) artists, about whom she knew very little. Some have now made it into her heavy rotation. She has seen Mike—calmly, even humbly—DJ at Heiner’s. Just one record, then the next. A month or so ago she bought the LP that Mike released last year, entitled Processed Snippets: Congo Traditional 1952 & 1957 and based on the recordings of Hugh Tracey.*

Mike cooks a very good curry, a Lamb Xacuti his speciality, which they’ve eaten together several times in Berlin and once, last February, in Lisbon. They’ve been high on mushrooms together, also in Heiner’s, then out in the snow on Wildenbruchstraße once the bar eased them out at closing time. They gossip—good naturedly—about shared friends, Cormack in particular. They like and frequent many of the same spaces within the city. They overlap.

But only tonight, sitting across from Mike here in Heiner’s new and to remain unnamed bar, did she realise that he had moved to Berlin straight from Shipley, outside of Bradford, when he was just 18 years old.

The talk around them continues. The couple at the end of the table are leaving. Traffic noise, shouted Arabic and a siren bustle and bulge in from Hermannstraße through the huge, fully opened sash window behind her as Kara sits back, sips her beer, and looks at Mike, whose accent is as deeply northern as her own used to be. She knows—she remembered that Mike was born and grew up outside of Bradford. But she’d forgotten—or had he never mentioned it, or had she just not thought about it, about his having not come from, come via, London? That was—what was that? 

To be here but to not interpret, not to overlay this major city with another major city, with her ten years’ worth of London; Lauren’s five of New York; Guillame’s eight of Paris; Sara’s five of Montreal; Gilly’s whole life of Tel Aviv; wherever those two at the end of the table who just left came from, came via—Moscow, she thinks it was. 

What even is that?

*    “[Mike] reflects on Tracey’s process—live mixing multi-instrumental tracks with a hand-held microphone—by focusing each piece on a limited sample and using basic EQing alongside only one software processor: IRCAM’s ‘the scrub’. He foreshortens the landscape, by zooming in onto moments of breath, the moment of the release of contact from the instrument, bursts of silence or processed modifications that transform vocals into the echo of ivory horns. Within this magnified view, the richness of the original material is turned over and seen from an array of angles. [Mike] notes that ‘inflections, harmony, expression and pulsing modulations all grab my attention, frequently expressed through voice, conical drums, luma pipes or lamella phones…’”


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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