Artist: Marcel Dettmann
Album: Berghain 02
Label: Ostgut Tonträger
Review date: Jul. 17, 2008
Whether he likes it or not, Marcel Dettmann is a politician. The East Berlin native was born too late to miss out on having his adolescent years stifled by the STASI, but he did come of age in a city that was rediscovering its collective musical identity. Dettmann navigated a climate littered with industrial EBM, cheesy new wave and embryonic techno by absorbing and blending it as a DJ throughout the mid-’90s, culminating in a successful stint at the renowned Ostgut club from 1999 to its close in 2003. Residency at the former power plant allowed him to hone his tastes and perfect his transitions, which were once again on full display when Ostgut reopened as Berghain/Panorama Bar in 2004.
The second mix from label Ostgut Tonträger inspired by Berghain’s purist techno (there is a separate series for the house-oriented Panorama Bar), Berghain 02 is a full-length demonstration of Dettmann’s prowess, namely gelling older techno standbys with the predominant sounds of today’s hits. And as it’s influenced by more variable, atmospheric trends in the techno world, Berghain 02 doesn’t bang so much as float.
Dettmann thrives on a certain tension created between older hard techno cuts and the less restrictive modern material. Indeed, it is this tension that lies at the center of a heated argument between those who love the mix despite its inspired-but-flawed tracklisting, and those that love the mix because of it. Early on, Marcel drops Risqué Rythum Team’s “The Jacking Zone.” Its abrupt entrance following a Substance remix of Tadeo is arguably the most contentious moment here; whether or not you appreciate that siren synth for how much of a classic it is will help you decide which camp you belong in. The crossfade to Kevin Saunderson’s “Just Want Another Chance” is another transition where listeners split on the question at the core of Berghain 02: Do we admire Dettmann for his unabashed acknowledgement of techno’s history? Or do we deride him for imperfect transitions when he could have been just as well off with another Redshape cut or, better yet, one of his own productions? It’s hard to remember André Galluzzi polarizing listeners this much with Berghain 01 three years ago.
The greatest success of Berghain 02 is that the man behind it brings a healthy host of exclusives and contemporaries to give an accurate picture of what’s happening at the sharp end of the genre. The nods to the past are nice, but the real strength lies in what can’t be found on other, lazier mixes by two-bit DJs eager to take advantage of techno’s ongoing struggle to not copy itself. Influences ranging from house to electro to dubstep dot the landscape of the final 23 minutes, and when it’s all over, you’re left remembering how great the transition from T++ to Radio Slave was rather than that Saunderson head-scratcher.
In that sense, Berghain 02 also works as more than just a shortened snapshot of Dettmann’s eight-hour club workouts. It is a tutorial on how great techno can be when the right people are behind the decks. Nevermind the questionable crossfades, and forget Fabric 973,848: This is my mix of the year thus far.
By Patrick Masterson