- Ellen Allien's roots as a DJ in Berlin clubs like Tresor and E-Werk in the early '90s are well documented, but the link between her DJing and her music on BPitch Control, the label she's run since 1999, has grown more distant in recent years. LISm, her last album, was an adaptation of a soundtrack for a dance performance in Paris's Centre Pompidou. The album before that, Dust, was a techno record with conspicuous pop elements. But it's those formative dance floor spaces from which Nost, a nine-track album of some of the straightest techno she's ever made, seems to draw.
"Mind Journey" is a creepy opener with a man-machine vocal delivering what sounds like a warning: "This is not a mind trip / it's a mind journey." "Innocence" is even more foreboding, a hiss-laden techno track with vocal echoes and iron chords. The rest of Nost carries on in the same manner. The introspective passages or digressions into other styles that defined her past albums are conspicuously absent.
The album title is a nod to nostalgia, a throwback to the kind of pre-commercialised dance music scene from which she emerged. In keeping with that, a lot of Nost's tracks forego tricky drops and elaborate layers in favour of simpler, classic-sounding '90s techno. It can sometimes feel a bit uniform. The combinations of acid, chords and vocal accents on "Jack My Ass," "Call Me" and "Electric Eye," for example, vary only in a superficial sense.
But Nost's no-nonsense approach sometimes works wonders. The two-note synths on "Mma," one of the album's standouts, sounds like a fire alarm, and the track's bassy chords and raspy bassline convey the same urgency. Allien's vocals on Nost, comprised mostly of one-word chants and delivered in English, are most effective on tracks like "Physical," where they feel more like commands than suggestions. In returning to the sort of music with which she made a name for herself, Allien sounds as confident, if not quite as ambitious, as ever.
01. Mind Journey
03. Jack My Ass
04. Call Me
05. Electric Eye
08. Stormy Memories