Cologne (Köln around these parts) has transformed itself into a major cultural centre over the past couple of decades or so, with C/O Pop playing its part having been around in the city since 2004.

Hosted in various venues across the centre of the city, the festival features an eclectic range of sounds with an emphasis on music with an electronic edge (particularly in years gone by). Berlin may attract much attention on this front, however, Cologne has its own impressive history of vibrant pop culture; C/O Pop proudly showcases this.

Although we arrived too late to see Moderat and Omar Souleyman, The 405 had a lovely time taking in the rich history, museums, plenty of Kölsch (a local beer), and indeed music. Top marks to the interesting venues featuring excellent sound-systems, array and quality of acts on offer, organisation, and all round entertainment. Here are our five takeaways from the few days spent there.

Cut_

We caught Cut_ playing a special Dutch showcase in a bar (Zum scheuen Reh bar) as opposed to their main show, and this intimate setting worked for the Amsterdam-based boy/girl duo, their nebulous electronics alongside a heavy emphasis in pop sounding crisp and dynamic.

Belle Doron on vocals possessed a throaty Lorde sound, with even some Lorde-esque spindly moves for an immersive viewing. Purity Ring for another lazy comparison if you will. It can be easy for electronic acts to fall into that blackhole of blandness in a live setting, but Cut_ had an energy accompanied by visuals that made a lasting impression. Do check out ‘Tune In Tune Out’, gang. We hope to hear more of them soon.

Musuems - particularly Ludwig Museum

As mentioned in the opening paragraph Cologne is a strong cultural centre, and this extends to the museums and galleries on offer. Ludwig Museum is the most popular and with good reason; an impressive space containing a large range of contemporary art, a space to get lost in for hours on a rainy day (and boy was it raining that day). Also recommended: Museum für angewandte kunst (if you’re into 20th century design).

Another must-visit is the National Socialism Documentation Centre (NS-Dokumentationszentrum), that essentially serves as both a museum and memorial for the victims of the Nazis. It’s as powerful as you would expect, especially given that the site was home of the Cologne Gestapo between December 1935 and March 1945 and the basement contains the mostly untouched prison cells of that era. Somehow the experience had an even stronger gravitas, since in the immediate days before this had seen the far right marches in Charlottesville alongside a President sympathetic to their views, and those images and words still loomed in minds while walking around.

Jadu Heart

Ah Jadu Heart, a classic case of the ‘mysterious’ electronic duo - all press photos of them with their faces hidden via masks, or using artwork (or sometimes both) to keep their identities hidden. What we do know is that they are signed to Mura Masa’s label, Anchor Point Records, and their name is Dino and Faro - and the most crucial point - they have released some very good music. We caught them fresh off the back of a Boiler room set.

The identity of their music is as opaque as their public image - a sound indebted most certainly to trip-hop, r&b, and pop to name but a few. Generally a warm and mellow sound to get sunk into - live however they provide more energy than on record, with a certain danceability, a certain.. funk evident. The Gloria Theatre in the more “hipster” area of Rudolfplatz hosted and was probably the best venue of the festival; a sloping hall with levels at the top, atmospheric lighting, while possessing modern aesthetics with some old school flourishes. The set consequently was a highlight of the festival for sure.

Perfume Genius

Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius released his fourth album No Shape earlier this year to critical acclaim; an album that like each one before it traversed new territory, a fully-fleshed out, confident album by a musician at their most comfortable with their sound and themselves. Many tracks from the glorious No Shape we hear, alongside an even amount of tracks from the past three albums.

The show was an all-seated affair at Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal; now, the venue is a fine one featuring very comfy cinema chairs in Royal Festival Hall-esquel space. It’s a vibe that arguably doesn’t suit the work of Perfume Genius, emphasised somewhat with the hall being a little over half full. A tad… formal. However Mike Hadreas (with his band behind him) does what any self-defined queer artist would do: he queers up the space. Despite the low energy of the occasion, he danced, slutdropped, and contorted his body while living every lyric. It proved impossible to keep your eyes off this performance and it was magical.

Title track ‘No Shape’ twinkled with its dreamy sonic textures, ‘Queen’ sounded fierce as ever, and ‘Just Like Love’ was an intense joy live. Quieter tracks such as ‘Hood’ felt more at home in the environment. By the end, such was the immersive performance by Perfume Genius, concerns had mostly disappeared about the venue - and one could argue that the formality of the place placed a greater emphasis on Hadraes than another venue may have. I have seen Perfume Genius play to a drunken, chatty London crowd and it’s the most annoying thing.

We must give a shout out to Dorit Chrysler who supported here. Never have I seen a theremin played so well.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne was described as the "world's greatest heap of rubble" in 1945 shortly after the end of WWII with the vast majority of the city centre flattened by bombs from the Allies; however the, gothic cathedral remained one of the few structures standing.

It’s visible from all parts of town such is its size, and while it seems such an obvious choice given how it dominates the skyline and tourist activity, it’s a must to explore. Be prepared for a 533 step walk to reach the viewing area at the top, but it really is worth it.