- Club-branded CDs used to be informal things given away free with admission; nowadays it's a legitamised, commercial affair, commonplace to the point of obligatory, and with Fabric's steel boxes and Robert Johnson's book-sized special editions, they're beginning to resemble trophies. As a result, Berlin's Watergate series seems humble: Their modestly designed digipacks championing some of techno's lesser-known, more adventurous DJs. Konrad Black is hardly a household name, a mere handful of releases and remixes to his credit, but as one of the founders of Wagon Repair he commands respect. As his M_nus credentials indicate, Black plays minimal, here a more warped, teeth-baring minmal than Watergate 1 contributor Onur Özer, yet paradoxically there's less variation, fewer curveballs and a dearth of bite.
Black's only concession to the current house fad is in the thick air of Seth Troxler-esque psychodrama looming threateningly throughout, revealed fully in the set's centrepice and highlight, Troxler & Matthew Dear's genuinely collaborative "Hurt." Dear's voice gets the expected spook treatment, lost in a duststorm of whirling blips, sleighbell hats and kooky percussion breaks, but getting here is an uphill climb. Alex Cortex's "Nachttarif" is a promising start, big synths sweeping the floor like searchlights, but it's a tease. There follows a lengthy, awkward transition into D. Diggler's stuttering "Silicone," and much more of the same: Raudive, Loco Dice via Özer, and Black's Buttrich collaboration "Siamese Connection" are so similar they seem just that, mutant offshoots of the same slippery tool, tripping themselves up, like dancing in quicksand.
Technically Black is sharp, his long mixes wrenching life from these cold pieces (if only by multiplicity), and from the heights of "Hurt" he puts in a very good run: Stephan G's steady dub-house "Shass," erupting into fierce shards in Louderbach's stunning goth-glam "Shine." It doesn't last, though: the arctic thud of Ben Klock's "Subzero" then seems frigid, Discogs's "Real Love" no less inert. Mathew Jonson's exclusive, expansive, and exquisite closer "Walking on the Hands That Follow Me" is thus all the more glorious. With the twinkling arpeggios of his early days, set adrift from rhythm, "Walking..." resembles the powder-puff trance of Jesse Somfay, traces of guitar falling like weeping confetti, viewed through misty, pastel-tint goggles. It's a gorgeous, memorable finale to a largely bland and forgettable journey.
01. Alex Cortex - Nachttarif
02. D. Diggler - Silicone
03. Raudive - Cone (Edit)
04. Loco Dice - Breakfast at Nina's (Onur Özer Mix)
05. Konrad Black & Martin Buttrich - Siamese Connection
06. Matthew Dear & Seth Troxler - Hurt
07. Stephan G - Shass
08. Queen Atom - Enemy of Time (Cesare vs. Disorder on Time Edit)
09. Louderbach - Shine (Thrill Cosby’s Broken Door Mix Vox. Dilo)
10. Ben Klock - Sub Zero
11. Discogs - Real Love EQ (Italy Version)
12. Paul Ritch - Evil Laff (Konrad Black Remix)
13. Mathew Jonson - Walking on the Hands That Follow Me