- Playing techno and playing house requires different skill sets. These days, most techno tracks are long and loopy with slow-building intros and outros. House, on the other hand, tends to be more dynamic. Changes come quickly and often abruptly, and there are usually more elements at play—vocals, big melodies, heavy percussion. Techno sets, for the most part, are about smooth transitions, layering and a steady groove. Playing house has less rules, as the tracks themselves do most of the work. Clanged a mix? No problem—the arrival of a bassline or vocal a few seconds later will likely have people cheering anyway. In techno, clean mixes and an expert sense of groove is crucial. Disrupt the flow and you'll have people heading for the door.
Berghain residents Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock, who took over Panorama Bar on Friday night for the 2016 edition of their annual ritual, have picked up more skills than most on their way to the top. They mostly play loop techno, but do it with a subtle flair that only comes with years of experience behind the decks. (They've both been playing 100-plus gigs per year for a while.) Transitions are drawn out and seamless, and often come with a few tricks—the unexpected flick of a filter, isolator or fader adds a spark to an otherwise straightforward mix, boosting the energy in the room each time. When it's house music in their hands, as it was for some of Friday night, the results are particularly interesting. Theirs is a style of DJing rarely heard at Panorama Bar, a space generally reserved for warmer sounds and where, for the most part, it's the tracks that people cheer for, not—as is arguably the case downstairs in Berghain—the journey.
The night began with Nitam, who showed that he has a lot to learn about DJing. The party's hardest tunes—which would've been more suited to Berghain at 8 AM—were played before either headliner arrived. Dettmann, luckily, had reset the energy within a few seconds of the handover, mixing quickly into a broken beat tune.
Between 3 AM and sometime after midday, Dettmann and Klock proved that they were masters of selection as much as technique. Every transition was perfectly timed, as though the elements of each tune were building blocks to be arranged at the DJs' will. Basslines, vocals, hi-hats and melodies were eased in smoothly but quickly, while other tracks were teased in and out before anyone knew what was happening. It was a mechanical approach, but done with a level of finesse that only a handful of DJs in the world can manage. The elements Dettmann and Klock were working with—basslines, vocals, weird melodies—were more pronounced than what you'd find in their bags of barreling techno, and seemed to arrive more randomly. New basslines, assumedly from a third channel, generated rounds of cheers time and time again. It was the timing that made it work so well—is this a new track or some drastic change in the tune currently playing? Their delivery was often so accurate it was impossible to tell.
At times, while playing back-to-back, Dettmann and Klock appeared to be heading in different directions—the night's funniest moment came when Klock, the housier of the two, cheekily slammed Romanthony's "Let Me Show You Love" into one of Dettmann's moody techno tracks, eliciting a grin from his otherwise reserved DJ partner. This moment was representative of much of the duo's back-to-back—a push and pull between Dettmann's techno, new wave and EBM, and Klock's brighter house and rolling tech house. Klock played alone from mid-morning, appearing to pay little mind to the sun beaming in through Panorama Bar's windows. His selections only grew darker once Dettmann departed, though there were occasional excursions into softer sounds (for instance, Omar-S's "A Victim").
The party's most striking image is one of Klock alone behind the decks deep into Saturday morning. Half-smiling, he would dash from CDJ to mixer, pausing once in a while to flick through his record bag, all with the enthusiasm of someone playing their first gig. Here was one of the busiest DJs in the world, doing his best to put on a show for a few dozen stragglers. When Klock was in the zone, it was impossible to tell exactly what he was doing with the mixer when a new track came in, or even how many faders were up—a sure sign of a master DJ at work.