Where we at, people? Already this month I’ve heard three people say ‘fuck, is it May already?’ I don’t know about you, but I think 2008 has been a panning out fairly well so far in terms of releases, sounds, directions, labels and so forth – a far cry from the dearth and glut that has afflicted food and finance worldwide. One thing that I personally can’t get enough of at the moment is the Berghain sound, and I don’t think I’m alone there. Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann even made the cover of Germany’s Groove magazine this month, with Klock doing his best impersonation of a GAP model and Dettmann looking monumental and angular, complete with the malamute eyes and chiselled cheekbones of a socialist-realist sculpture. But it’s their productions, more than their pin-up prospects, which are really of interest. Both producers have been totally on it for a while now, but it’s the release of Dettmann’s new Berghain 02 mix that should irrefutably consolidate the reputation of the club, its residents and their label (O-Ton) as Europe’s new ‘holy trinity’ of techno.
Much like O-Ton’s other associated artists Cassy and Prosumer, Dettmann puts the emphasis on the record itself. He lets the darned tune play, and pursues a style that is very comfortable in its own skin and not trying to be edgy, pretentious, (and ending up overblown or downright ridiculous). There’s a nice (and perhaps important) contrast between this kind of approach and a lot of others that lean heavily on the new capabilities of FX, looping, sampling and all the other bells and whistles of both the new mixers and digital mixing interfaces. A lot of prominent people in electronic music appear to have become slaves to an imagined ‘freedom’ and their fantasies of total control. If you ask me, it’s simply no good using key correction, looping and every possible effect under the sun if the underlying material you’re playing is rubbish. On the contrary, if the records are the business, all the DJ really needs to do is look after the fundamentals. As DJ Yoda (admittedly a very different kind of DJ) said to me the other month, “the most important thing is to rock the party with two turntables. That’s the fundamental. If you can do that, well then, anything you can add to make the set more creative, that’s a bonus.” In both their DJ work and their productions, O-Ton’s style is so utterly ‘fundamental’ that it’s almost stodgy; but (on the other) this is also a highly developed aesthetic that knows precisely what it is and how it wants to express itself. It’s the beauty of the bulletproof. I’m instantly reminded of some of the parallel ‘unbreakable classics’ of industrial design: the AK-47, the Nikon F2 and F3, the Technics 1200.
O-Ton is also without a doubt one of the labels of the year so far in terms of the traction that it’s had with fans. To this (whatever you or I think of their releases), you’d have to add Oslo, Wagon Repair, Uzuri and Styrax. Guillaume (of the Coutu Dumonts) is just about to drop another EP for the Oslo as The Per Eckbo Orchestra that’s getting good reviews, although I haven’t heard it and can’t vouch for it. Guillaume’s also about to release a solo EP for Musique Risquée with a Horror Inc. (Akufen) mix on the flip – could Marc ‘Akufen’ Leclair be about to make an overdue return? Meanwhile, over at Beatport, the sales tell another story, and it’s artists like Deadmau5 and Danton Eeprom that are getting all the love. It’s hard to know exactly, but there feels like a growing disconnect between the different digital outlets, not only in terms of the sounds they’re pushing and what’s getting the critical response, but also in terms of what people are actually buying. As Phil Collins once said, ‘we’re two hearts strivin’/into separate worlds.’ All this before he divorced his wife… by fax.
Back in Melbourne, the various announcements for the impending We Love $$$ounds behemoth may say more than they intend. I noted that Ali ‘Dubfire’ Shirazinia has been booked to come out, but on the bill posters the designers have been careful to bracket his personas, so it’s ‘Dubfire (Deep Dish)’ – a decision which demonstrates bad faith and/or careful research. Apparently Melbourne fans either only know (or actually prefer) Deep Dish. Hey, when it comes to pizza, I’m one of them. If I never have to eat another gutless, cheeseless, overpriced ‘gourmet’ pizza ever again, I’ll be a happy lad. And as for Ali… well, I’ve said my bit about Dubfire. Interestingly (and happily), Gaiser is making an appearance at We Love Sounds. Anyone who’s caught mp3 recordings of his live PAs would know how much (and how hard) they kick – in fact, he’s probably the best (and maybe the only) decent M_nus live act. And yes, I mention this as he’s coming with Marc Houle who… well, at least he’s better than Heartthrob. We Love Sounds is also collecting numerous other names, like Ellen Allien, who has been a rubbish DJ for a few years now – sorry, but it’s true. Then there’s Derrick ‘Same Old Shit’ Carter, Stephan ‘techno by the bald man’ Bodzin, Modeselektor, and (look mum no) Hans-Peter Lindstrøm.
Personally speaking, I’m deeply ambivalent about the predominance of big festivals like We Love Sounds. On the one hand, it allows promoters to put together incredible line-ups and tour artists who might otherwise not be a viable proposition; on the other, there’s a good chance you’ll shell out almost $100 dollars to hear your favourite artist play for thirty minutes on a substandard system in a dusty field. And then (if you’re really lucky), you get to share the experience with tens of thousands of gurning, fluoro-ed up munters off their mash on crystal meth, Jagerbombs, glowsticks and alcopops – the very same people (along with the ‘fuck and a fight’ philosophy that’s always guided a good night out on King St) who have inspired ‘the lockout’… (sigh)… I don’t doubt that this is a well-organised, exciting event featuring a number of highly anticipated artists. But, well, call me Grandpa Curmudgeon, but here’s hoping there are a few good sideshows.