Monday, May 19, 2008

We Were Never Mnml, May 2008

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.


  1. dettmann/klock's pin-up potential is every bit as interesting as their productions.
    pc, everything you write is a joy to read. please keep going as long as you can. my impatience for Berghain 02 is now wearing so thin i'm finding it impossible to rein in any more. dettmann's playing manchester in early june so i'm making the pilgrimage to see how the cheekbones look in the flesh.
    have you heard the tama sumo/prosumer record on o-ton? I bought it a week ago without looking properly at the cover - it's vile, should be wrapped in brown paper. the music's pretty sordid too: 'squeeeeeeze'. good record.

  2. Thank you, Joe. I really appreciate that.

    And yes, you'll notice that I *didn't* include Tama Sumo's cover – although you'd have to say that, as far as anuses go, that's a fairly polite one.

  3. re: obscene album art of somewhat recent vintage
    not to be the one-up guy or whatever, but..

  4. I really like the Shed tune from the other 12" of the mix. I guess the a&r for Ostgut ton is as picky as Sven is at the door on berghain/panoramabar!

  5. Re: James' comment – she'd never get laid in Australia.

    'I'm sorry, darling, I just don't think we're compatible... and even if you were, I think you'd find my voltage shocking.'

    Myuk myuk myuk.

    Re: Karl - is that the biker dude w/ the tats? A friend of mine reckons he's got a set against him. Makes him go to the back of the line X number of times, even though he's at Berghain nearly every weekend. Sheesh. Oh well.

    Security: Can't live with 'em, can't live with 'em.

  6. Whenever I think about Dettmann and the rest of the Berghain crew I keep coming back to the words "pure techno." I'm not sure if that makes any sense, really, but it seems to make perfect sense to me.

    I've known a couple of people who recently said they were starting to lose faith with techno. I prescribed them a diet of Dettmann. They have now found their faith rekindled.

    Joe, let us know how Dettmann's cheekbones are when you see him in June.

    As regards the Wagon Repair label, I am currently *loving* The Mole's "As High As The Sky." Could this be the feelgood party album of the summer?

  7. pc: yeah thats the one:

    I think a lot of people think he has something against them personally but I don't think that is the case really, its just that snobby but understandable german door policy

  8. Karl – I wouldn't say it's a German door policy... seems like it's the case in most places in the world.

    Got to agree w/ Cam on the Mole: honestly, a great vibe on that album.

    But Wagon Repair also cos:

    -the B-side on the Luca Barchetti's human EP (don't like the A 'cos of the infernal 'zuuuulu' sample)

    -the new Tobias, just out, and WELL worth checking if you liked his two EPs from 06/07, inc. 'street knowledge' (a good sample!)

    Has anyone heard M Jonson's newie w/ Adam 'Loop-de-Loop' Beyer? And what about Deadbeat?

    Am I the only one who thinks that Deadbeat is actually getting worse? I really, really enjoyed his first album in ~scape, and it was the highpoint of his works. There was a muddy/dub techno album before that with some moments, and some amazing click techno like 'Garble and Slur' and 'Disaster in the Dancehall', but for me, it's all been going gradually downhill since then.

    ...and I must say, I also struggle with Hrdvision, although I know it's just 'not for me'.

  9. on the berghain tip, i am starting to worry we are becoming ostgut's PR outlet! but what they are doing is so good... and while we think critique is an important part of a healthy scene, the best bits should be praised. and right now, that means lots of high fives for dettmann and the gang. in the next 24 hours i should be posting the next mnml ssg mix, which is from another berghain resident, norman nodge. and it is brilliant...

    also, i heard the bayer mix of jonson last weekend. konrad black finished his set with it. much better than i expected and kinda worked.

  10. when is the berghain 02 mix by herr dettmeister out?


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