- By now Marcel Dettmann is more than just a techno artist—he's the embodiment of a techno sound. Atmospheric and utilitarian, it's a sound indigenous to Berlin, but one that's also inspired by Detroit, whose artists helped shape the city's nightlife in its post-Wall heyday, and whose vinyl exports were an early staple of that other key force in Dettmann's taste: Hard Wax. Combining Basic Channel's loopy minimalism with the sci-fi aesthetic of artists like Jeff Mills and Robert Hood, the style of techno Dettmann represents is stark and atmospheric, deep and heavy, built for long sets in cavernous rooms.
Dettmann is by no means the only artist playing and making this kind of music, nor is he necessarily the best. But, as Berghain's flagship resident (next to Ben Klock), he is the most respected, and his stamp of approval means a lot. Hence Marcel Dettmann Records, a label that lets Dettmann share his spotlight with artists he admires. That's what MDR has done since it started 2006, and that's what we get on its first full-length compilation, MDR016.
Aside from the mysterious Lockertmatik, everyone on MDR016 has a clear connection to Dettmann, be it personal, creative or both (it's also worth noting that nearly all of them are regulars or residents at Berghain). Back in the day, Patrick Gräser released tech house records on labels like Liebe*Detail. When he refashioned himself as the obliquely named Answer Code Request, Dettmann debuted him on MDR with two stellar EPs. Here, Gräser gives us "Corps De Ballet," a tough and atmospheric cut with an irregular, stuttering groove (one of his hallmarks). Norman Nodge, who gave Dettmann his first gigs (and was later reluctantly persuaded into a Berghain residency by his protégé), delivers "Signal Response," a typically smooth slice of serpentine techno. Kobosil, a Berlin up-and-comer who put out his second EP on MDR, lives up to his reputation as an artist-to-watch with the lean and spacey "Secede."
At the end of last year, Dettmann gave one his best recent tracks ("Take One") to Anthony Parasole for a compilation EP called Bloodlines on The Corner, Parasole's label. Here the New York heavyweight returns the favour with "7EVEN," a tense and linear banger that's lit up by a strobing grand piano. Milton Bradley is a Berlin producer who shares Dettmann's love of groaning atmospheres and meticulous loops. This is born out on "Assembled," though the track feels a bit flat compared to Bradley's killer records on the now-defunct Do Not Resist The Beat! and its successor, Alien Rain.
FBK is the most far-flung artist on MDR016—he hails from Colombus, Ohio, a city distinctly less storied than its Midwestern neighbours, Chicago and Detroit. He's put out records off and on since 1997, most notably "Nanomal," a track that made it into Dettmann's 2010 Conducted mix. His contribution, "Past Ownership," is easily the best thing here, an ominous groover that calls to mind Livity Sound. As for Lockertmatik, a Dresden artist with a label of the same name (its MO: "underground music with focus of the detroit old skool"), little is known about him or her, but "1st.StmNT" makes their kinship to Dettmann obvious—it's soaring and artfully cluttered, with a throbbing bassline and fluttering snares.
Which leaves us with Dettmann himself, who finishes the package with "Forla2." As club-focused as he is, Dettmann can also be pretty out-there (or to use the word so often associated with him, "uncompromising"), which he is here. "Forla2" is thick, flowing and full of what sound like backwards loops. The drums are all smudged beyond recognition, with only the hi-hats cutting through the murk. It's an inspired closer to a compilation that, while certainly strong, doesn't quite meet its own standard of excellence. This label and these artists have put out better things in the past couple of years—though split into two releases, MDR014, which gathered previously unreleased tracks from Dettmann's fabric mix, was arguably a better compilation. Still, MDR016 is a satisfying transmission from one of techno's finest crews.
A1 Answer Code Request - Corps De Ballet
A2 FBK - Past Ownership
B1 Anthony Parasole - 7EVEN
B2 Norman Nodge - Signal Response
C1 Milton Bradley - Assembled
C2 Kobosil - Secede
D1 Lockertmatik - 1st.StmNT
D2 Marcel Dettmann - Forla2