It is now a matter of record, rather than debate, that Berlin is the global centre of electronic music. This city - with its cheap rents, sensational club spaces and ever-growing international creative community - is a hub of talent and ideas which has spawned the two most significant upheavals in recent dance music history: electroclash and minimal techno. But it's not just the beats that are progressive, it's Berlin's sexual politics, too. In stark contrast to Britain, where women remain fringe players on underground music scenes, Berlin's female DJs and label owners are highly visible and influential.
This month, Ellen Allien and Anja Schneider both release hotly anticipated artist albums, while running labels - BPitch Control and Mobilee, respectively - that are nowadays as cool and internationally significant as Mo' Wax or Warp once were. Elsewhere, Monika Kruse, who runs the Terminal M label, Cassy, Alejandra "Dinky" Iglesias and Magda, not to mention long-established electropop and artist collective Chicks On Speed, have all forged successful independent careers in the city.
That Anja Schneider regards all this as pretty unremarkable probably speaks for itself. Years ago, says Schneider, her good friend Allien (they first met DJing on pirate radio) had to put up with a lot of "shit" from men, but now: "It's quite easy. Women have respect. When I play ideas for my album to the boys from the label, they're all really serious and honest with me."
As a British expat, however, Liz McGrath, editor of Electronic Beats and new bilingual clubzine Bang Bang Berlin, sees Berlin as a radically different place. "It's such an open-minded city, full stop," she says, referencing the city's openly gay mayor. "Men and women do get along better here, certainly far better than in London." Her explanation ranges from the lack of a heavy drinking culture, which means "less leering" from men in clubs, to the way the city's traumatic past has forged a deep mutual respect between Berliners: "For the younger generation the whole 'battle of the sexes' isn't visible. It just matters how good your ideas are, not what body parts you possess."
Schneider - who was recently profiled in Germany's Vanity Fair - insists there are positive advantages to being a woman in techno. Women are, generally, less competitive and more willing to help one another. And, musically, they embrace melody in a way some male producers can't, for fear of being labelled "cheesy". Certainly, Schneider's lush Beyond The Valley is worlds away from austere boffin techno. "When I DJ," she says, "I can feel that people need melodies and warmth."
As for the idea that any of these women would stoop to playing on their sexuality to promote themselves, pouting and preening for glossy club magazines, forget it. "Berlin is anti-everything," says McGrath. "It's anti-brands, anti-hype, anti-celebrity. Women DJs rarely play on their sexual wiles because they wouldn't be taken seriously, by girls and guys."
Not that Berliners lack a sense of humour. "I never feel like I have to be sexy ... because I am," laughs Schneider. "But, no, I didn't ever think about it."
· Ellen Allien's Sool is out on Monday; Anja Schneider's Beyond The Valley is released on Jun 9
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