Vatican Shadow - Berghain 09

  • An intricate collage of industrial, noise and techno
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  • The latest installment of Berghain's mix series might best be described as a sound collage. Its curator, the Hospital Productions boss Vatican Shadow (AKA Dominick Fernow), is an unconventional DJ who has "mixed" with iPods, tape decks and Walkmans. On Berghain 09, he embellishes an hour of techno tracks with material from exclusive cassette tape recordings from 1981 by the British avant-garde iconoclast Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Fernow weaves vocal loops and field recordings into more conventional dance floor selections to create a unique set that reveals new details with each listen. Without knowing the method behind Fernow's mix, some of its genius might not be apparent. On the surface, Berghain 09 seems like an interesting but ultimately straightforward techno set that competently spans the genre's intersections with industrial, EBM and noise music. That's no easy task itself, as there's a lot of ground to cover. The mix encompasses synth wave, snarling loop techno, sludgy electro, hand-drum percussion tracks, abstract drone textures, even an acid jam. It also includes material by the noise artist Merzbow and Godflesh's Justin Broadrick, under his techno-leaning JK Flesh alias. There's also, of course, plenty of P-Orridge—s/he's the glue holding it all together. Making P-Orridge the conceptual centerpiece of an entire mix is controversial given recent allegations that s/he was abusive to longtime partner Cosey Fanni Tutti. It makes more sense for Fernow when you consider P-Orridge's indisputable importance in the history of transgressive music and art, which cannot be retroactively expunged. Nevertheless, P-Orridge's presence on Berghain 09 is tone-deaf at best and combative at worst, especially given the contentious mood in culture and media at large, and the recent spate of high-profile documentaries that hold famous abusers accountable, no matter their influence or artistic genius. Though Berghain 09's first hour sounds like proper techno, it's not, as there's always about three different things playing at once. The time-coded tracklist reveals that between minutes nine and ten, Fernow burns through two techno tracks—Traversable Wormhole's "Traversing Through The Asteroid Belt" and Bronze Age's "Modal Ingenuity"—and two different excerpts from P-Orridge's archive, but it's hard to tell what's happening when. Later, Regis's "It's A Man's World" is buried in the tracks before and after—Ron Morelli's bleepy "Colts Neck" and Fugal's sparse ambient techno cut "First Descent"—as well as two simultaneous doses of P-Orridge. Fernow's hybridized approach to DJing is more ambitious on a technical and creative level than a typical set. It also makes the mix unique—you'll never hear these particular combinations in this particular way elsewhere. No surprise, then, that the tracks on the accompanying 12-inch sound pretty different there than they do in the mix. Alberich's itchy "Werkstatt," for example, is reduced to a rhythmic chug under the hissing of Silent Servant's "The Strange Attractor," which seems to play the nearly whole time Alberich's track is in. And therein lies the mix's greatest strength and weakness: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Fernow's taste in dance floor sounds isn't as singular as his own productions or his ability to combine sounds in compelling ways. The techno tracks on Berghain 09 are only as interesting as what Vatican Shadow is able to do with them. Thankfully, he's able to do quite a lot.
  • Tracklist
      1. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - One Being, One Orientation, One Power 2. Rosa Damask - Our Heroes Are Leaving Us, Our Heroes Are Gone 3. Steve Moore - Fever Dream 4. Benestrophe - H.I.V. (Test Positive) 5. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - One Being, One Orientation, One Power 6. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - One Being, One Orientation, One Power 7. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Phone Calls 1980/1981 (Excerpt) 8. Dustmite - Tracing 9. Solitary Dancer - Emails 2 Myself (Out-Of-Office-Version) 10. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Phone Calls 1980/1981 (Excerpt) 11. Miles - Status Narcissism 12. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - NY Porn (Excerpt) 13. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Phone Calls 1980/1981 (Excerpt) 14. Bloom Offering - Linger 15. U.S. Hard - Club Diagram 16. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Nomad (Excerpt) 17. Traversable Wormhole - Traversing Through The Asteroid Belt 18. Bronze Age - Modal Ingenuity 19. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - NY Porn (Excerpt) 20. Merzbow - Loop 2 21. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - NY Porn (Excerpt) 22. Navicon Torture Technologies - Love's Executioner 23. Silent Servant - The Strange Attractor 24. Alberich - Werkstatt 25. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - NY Porn (Excerpt) 26. Leæther Strip - Dreaming (Two Track Demo 1984) 27. Volvox - Becoming 28. Front Line Assembly - Eye On You (Orphx Remix) 29. Tomohiko Sagae - Danger Signal (Death Abyss All You Need Is Kill Remix) 30. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Nomad (Excerpt) 31. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Phone Calls 1980/1981 (Excerpt) 32. Ancient Methods - White Flames 33. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Phone Calls 1980/1981 (Excerpt) 34. Barker & Baumecker - Buttcracker 35. Identified Patient - Vrouwe Fataal 36. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - NY Porn (Excerpt) 37. JK Flesh - Decontrol 38. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Phone Calls 1980/1981 (Excerpt) 39. Western Versions - Española Nights / West Side Lights 40. Identified Patient - The Female Medical College Of Pennsylvania 41. Certain Creatures - Pleasure Principle / Repulsion 42. Surgeon - Set Two 43. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Nomad (Excerpt) 44. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - NY Porn (Excerpt) 45. Cleanser - Repeat, Transform 46. Los Angeles Death Cult - El Culto De Los Angeles De La Muerte 47. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Nomad (Excerpt) 48. F.U.S.E. - Substance Abuse 49. Ron Morelli - Mill Basin 50. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - NY Porn (Excerpt) 51. Alfredo Mazzilli - Njord 52. Ron Morelli - Colts Neck 53. Regis - It's A Man's World 54. Fugal - Oil Panes / First Descent 55. Shackleton - Massacre 56. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Nomad (Excerpt) 57. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - NY Porn (Excerpt) 58. Guilt - Cult Leader Of My Youth 59. Pinch & Shackleton - Rooms Within A Room 60. Løt.te - Tunnel Under The Base Station 61. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Voodoo (excerpt) 62. Militia - Anarchist Movement For Collectiv And Direct Action 63. Zegiest - La Sagrada 64. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Voodoo (Excerpt) 65. Guilt Attendant - Broken (Free) 66. Identified Patient - M.G.D. (cr) 67. Merzbow - Loop 3 68. Niamh O'Connor - Ah Bernie 69. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - NY Porn (Excerpt) 70. Dopplereffekt - Hyperelliptic Surfaces 71. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Voodoo (Excerpt) 72. Arkady - NKVD (Løt.te Remix) 73. Clay Rendering - Once In The Well 74. Pain Station - Turning Point 75. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - Ritual Music 76. Ireen Amnes - My Mind Is Broken 77. Richard Ramirez - How To Direct Your Anger 78. Bastard Noise & Christian Renou - Evipan Natrium 79. Merzbow - Loop 1 80. Prurient - God Is The Truth, The Way, And The Light 81. Militia - Light And Truth 82. Ugandan Methods & Prurient - Venom Timetables 83. Militia - Black Wolves Music (Dedicated To The Animal Liberation Front) 84. Lussuria - Three Knocks 85. Merzbow - Loop 4 86. Function & Vatican Shadow - The Nemesis Flower 87. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - One Being, One Orientation, One Power 88. Retrograde Youth - Dark Desire 89. Virile Games - Black Iron Prison 90. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - One Being, One Orientation, One Power