Visa woes and Haino screams

Two poles of Berlin existence yesterday, after sending lovely Ms. Peasant Glasses off to Hawaii for three weeks.

After a year of pretending it didn’t exist, it was time for me to visit the friendly Ausländerbehörde, Germany’s version of the INS, again. I had my docs in order; income statements, proof of insurance, rental contract. The works, in that peculiarly German paper-rich fashion.

Naturally, the woman who was helping me took one look at my stack and told me it was no good. She was quite friendly about it, and I was happy to see that my German was good enough to argue pointlessly with her about it. But it was no good. Apparently we freelance journalists can’t just shove check stubs at them to prove we’re making enough money to live on; we have to get an accountant, and have them sign off on everything, showing how much we’re likely to keep after taxes, and so on.

So it’s back to the termporary visa status for me, and time for accountant hunting. Any Berlin-ites know a good, reasonably priced, English-speaking Steuerberater?

Naturally, the best thing for forgetting a tooth-grinding bureaucratic experience is music that hits you over the head like a cartoon anvil. So it’s a good thing that Keiji Haino was in town last night.

Haino, who I’ve written about here before, is a Japanese guitar player who has roughly the same relationship to sound as a stick of dynamite does to a mountainside. Last night he was playing with electronic duo Pan Sonic, who kept a rumbling, dark and edgy texture underneath him at all times, sometimes sampling and chopping his work, sometimes creating their sounds from scratch.

Long- and gray-haired with straight, short bangs, always sunglassed on stage, Haino sings eerie high soprano notes, screams his throat out, plays rows of theremin-like instruments that give the impression he is swimming through or wrestling with a thick field of distorted sound. He brought out a detuned stringed instrument I’m unfamiliar with and beat oddly pretty horror-show dissonance out of it. Of course he played his guitar as though it were some alien trying to take over his mind.

The effect is both numbing and exhilarating. I remember the first time I went on Space Mountain at Disneyland, when I was very small. I was petrified, kept my eyes shut the entire time, so tense that I was exhausted at the end. But loved it. That’s Keiji. If I can’t scream about the Ausländerbehörde, at least he can.

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