- The curtains have now closed on MASSE, a collaboration by Berghain and the Staatsballett Berlin held in an unused portion of the legendary nightclub. Anyone who scored a ticket was treated to a truly unique Berghain experience, which is really saying something considering what happens on the other side of the club's interior wall every weekend. On a deep stage carved out of a crumbling postindustrial cave, dozens of bodies contorted to wild electronic sounds—some approaching the techno you're likely to hear next door, some not sounding much like club music at all.
In the context of the dance performance, the latter definitely worked better than the former: if you're used to hearing techno on the dance floor, then there's something a little strange about sitting still while a stage full of dancers moves to the beat. Consumed in the comfort of your living room, MASSE's three parts—from Henrik Schwarz, Marcel Dettmann & Frank Wiedemann and DIN (AKA Marcel Fengler and Efdemin)—have the opposite effect. Schwarz's contribution, "Balletsuite #1," was the show's big finish, and it comes first on Ostgut Ton's CD release. It bears hardly any resemblance to techno, and it's even a bit of a stretch by Schwarz's adventurous standards. The simple explanation is that it's an acoustic suite, with curvy melodies traded between guitar and piano. Schwarz is at his best when his attention is on those instruments, but he tends to revel in compositional extremes. Abrupt tempo changes and a wealth of textures gave the choreographers plenty to work with, but without a dance company to pin it down, it might lose you.
MASSE's two collaborative efforts make the transition from stage to stereo more artfully. Rather than meet in the middle, Dettmann and Wiedemann rendezvous somewhere well beyond their respective comfort zones on "Menuett." After a lengthy gurgle of analog zaps and creepy ambience, they settle into a tense, stepping groove and lose their melody in a fog. You hear echoes of early Autechre in the piece's third part, but the detailed, reverberant bell line lends it an electroacoustic context that feels entirely contemporary.
"Evolve," Fengler and Efdemin's contribution, bears some resemblance to the former's recent Fokus LP, where flashes of light passed fleetingly over classic Berghain darkness. With peaks of shuffling 4/4, it's the closest to standard club fare of the three pieces, but its gorgeous, beatless stretches set it apart from most techno. DIN may not venture as far into the unknown as Dettmann and Wiedemann, and they don't get quite as wild as Schwarz does, but they still pull off the set's most impressive suite. You may not have seen the full show, but with Masse you'll still feel plenty of drama.
Henrik Schwarz - Balletsuite #1 - Masse
01. Unknown Touch
02. Affect Structure
03. I Am Not Responsible For That
04. But Then I’m Different
05. When Things Are Difficult
06. Couple Are Strong
Dettmann | Wiedemann - Menuett
07. Part 1 - Accelerando
08. Part 2 - Martellato
09. Part 3 - Spiritoso
DIN - EVOLVE