Label: fabricScore: 8 / 10
It is hardly surprising that there was a cry of jubilation across the internet when it was announced that Marcel Dettmann was going to take to the helms of a fabric compilation. After-all, the Berliner’s rise to the top of the techno pile during the last ten years has not simply been the result of his proficiency when it comes to pulling out the stops in the DJ booth, but his ability to encapsulate that magic in the various mixes and records he has put out.
Whether in his contribution to Ostgut Ton’s Berghain mix series, his two studio albums or the 12”s that he has released – amongst other labels – on his own MDR imprint, Dettmann has, by and large, proven to be a producer whose music exceeds what you expect from your average techno record. Yes, the BPM hovers around the 130 mark. Yes, his basslines pulse in a way that lend them a functionality on the dancefloor. And yes, the stark, unforgiving and occasionally punishing arrangements are all well within the parameters of techno’s established sound. But his work is defined by a certain something that many techno producers seem to lack. He takes a considered approach when it comes to detail and form, and I don’t just mean sound-design. Dettmann is a producer who, you get the impression, is interested in the “art” of techno. He would be doing what he does even if people weren’t dancing to the sounds he produced and played.
It is these qualities that make Dettmann a figure who is an obvious choice for fabric’s long-running series. But his inclusion is also something of a surprise. After-all, if Dettmann is synonymous with a city and a club it is not London and fabric, but Berlin and Berghain (don’t forget, Dettmann was a resident at Berghain’s forerunner Ostgut). However, to Dettmann’s credit, and a further example of his attention to the finer details, fabric 77 is a mix that sounds closer to what you might expect to hear in Room 2 in fabric at 2am on Saturday night, than at 9am on a Monday morning in Berghain.
Mirroring the London club’s reputation for musical diversity (and dare we say, shorter set times than its German counterpart) fabric 77 finds Dettmann working with a much broader palette of sounds than his previous Berghain compilation. It’s an approach that is established right from the off. Newcomer Ryan James Ford’s smouldering and reverb-laden ‘Arthure Iccon’ opens the mix, working from a beatless beginning to establish a brooding atmosphere over the course of five-minutes. So far, so typical for a techno mix. But then Dettmann eschews the obvious, instead of mixing in a track of a similar tone and style he brings in the wonderful strutting tech-funkiness of ‘Sun Position’ that The Persuader (aka Jasper Dahlback) put out last year. Suddenly, we’re in totally different territory. Four minutes of that and the listener is hurtled into the bleak EBM of Terrence Fixmer’s ‘Inside Of Me’, with its haunting chords and whispered vocals reminding you that “you can’t forget the fear”.
It’s an approach that defines the mix. Whilst the record does have stretches in which one sound is sustained for a number of tracks, on the whole this is a compilation that makes rapid-fire transitions between different techno flavours. And, for the most, it works. Dettmann has said in the past that he is less excited by the prospect of constructing a single sustained sound, than playing people his favourite records. And this sensibility is very much on offer in fabric 77, brought to life in the most unusual pairings, whether it is the noisy-bassline of Rod’s RSPCT giving way to the chugging dub of an edited version of Paperclip People’s ‘Country Boy Goes Dub’, or his own Lightwork melting into the distorted piano keys of Lockertmatik’s ‘m_lock4’.
Perhaps, then it is unsurprising that some of the mixing is a little more rough around the edges than you might expect. For instance the join between Dario Zenker’s ‘Nearlin’ and Monobox’s ‘Film’ almost sounds as if Dettmann is fading between records rather than beat-matching. Yet, as each record is given time to play-out and establish itself (there’s hardly a selection that gets less than four-minutes) you find yourself caring more about the individual selections than the moments of transition. You start to realise that this is Dettmann limbering down and getting a little freeform and freaky.
Although, that is not to suggest that fabric 77 doesn’t cohere as a whole. As the droning synths of Vril’s ‘Torus XXXII’ bring the mix to a close, capping a final section in which cuts from Wincent Kunth, Joey Anderson and Marcelus all leave their mark, it is hard not to be left with a strong impression. There is a sense that you haven’t just been guided through Dettmann’s record box, but the frontiers of his tastes and influences when it comes to contemporary techno.
Yet, and this is particularly to its credit, Dettmann’s mix is about more than just himself. Comprised largely from records that he has signed to his MDR label and not yet released, the compilation presents a showcase of fresh talent, such as Answer Code Request, Dario Zenker and Francois X alongside the more established likes of Carl Craig, Robert Hood and Norman Nodge. This is a mix that not only encapsulates Dettmann, but also, to a degree, the techno school of 2014. And whilst the choppy mixing and selection might upset those who had hoped for a blinding techno set, this instead is a much more interesting prospect. Perhaps closer to a techno take on the esotericism of a Late Night Tales compilation than your typical fabric mix, this is a wonderful and utterly captivating collection of the music that makes Dettmann tick.