- Big-room techno with subtlety, nuance and more than a few hooks.
- If there's one thing that Martin Schacke knows, it's how to make techno sound appealing. Since his beginnings in Copenhagen's "fast techno" scene, he's combined a taste for high BPMs and pounding kick drums with a distinct knack for a hook. But what constitutes a hook in Schacke's world isn't always what you might expect. Sure, you've got the candy-sweet Russian pop samples ("Kisloty People," one of the biggest techno tracks of the last five years) and wailing divas over big-room techno. He's got a way with vocals that few people in his genre can match. But the hooks can also be other things: snarling, three-dimensional textures; chord stabs that come out of nowhere; even a certain kink in the way the kick drums are programmed. Every Schacke track sounds different than the rest, each possessing its own sonic signature, a rarity in techno—why is why Apocalyptic Decadence, his debut album, works so well in the difficult field of techno long-players.
Apocalyptic Decadence is what we're now familiar with as a "lockdown album"—a record made during the depths of the pandemic when clubbing seemed like a distant memory. But, wisely, Schacke avoids the clichés, turning not to ambient noodling or escapist techno bangers, but instead a patient, carefully considered record that starts patiently and ends somewhere up in the stratosphere.
The first half the album is staunchly mid-tempo, with Schacke leaving plenty of space for his well-manicured sounds. On the opener "Dysphoria," odd, timestretched sounds—like "Erotic Discourse" pulled apart and slowed right down—make for one of the LP's most memorable moments. On "Motorsports," serrated synths rip like revving engines, providing a hook for a track that's basically just a kick drum. On tunes like "Tasteless Poison," you can hear the EBM influences coming out with rippling grooves that flex like bulging biceps.
If you're looking for Big Dumb Schacke, you'll find it on "Creeping Up The Tempo," whose absurdly big snares and pitched-down vocal should sate fans looking for another "Kisloty People." (The closing "NY-X," with its pseudo-vocoder vocal hook, is another highlight in this department.) It's with this track—and an admittedly pointless interlude after it—that Apocalyptic Decadence suddenly switches into high gear. You've got the skewed reggae techno stomp of "Dungeon Crawler," the insidiously catchy "Body Type," which metes out its melody in a gruff, downtuned motif, and the glitchy, gurgly "Hypersensitivity," which boasts the LP's most luxurious breakdown.
Almost every time I reach the end of the LP, the chords that come in halfway through "NY-X" startle me. They're obnoxious and loud, honking like the signature synth refrain of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," blotting out almost everything around them. It's a moment for fist pumps, for excited screams, for acknowledging the power of a runaway techno track and the almost absurd loudness and momentum the genre can carry at its most ridiculous. This is the side of techno that Schacke understands best, and he leans into this cartoonish side without losing sight of the detail, careful pacing and sound design that makes the best stuff so intriguing. Apocalyptic Decadence is the rare techno album that succeeds not because it tries something different, but because it doubles down on the genre: no bells and whistles, no problems. Just approachable, catchy techno from a producer who knows the genre inside-out.
02. Tasteless Passion
03. Miasma Of Filth
05. Creeping Up The Tempo
06. The Mood (Interlude)
07. Dungeon Crawler
08. Body Type