Monday, May 5, 2008

Melody Maker, autumn 1992

by Simon Reynolds

Tresor is a famous Berlin club located in a vault that was once the safe of a department store. Maybe because the temperatures inside this strobe-blitzed sauna reach tropical levels, the techno made by DJ's and groups associated with the club (and gathered on Der Klang Der Familie) is sweat-less and cold-as-ice.

The Berlin sound as represented here has a similar clinical-but-crazed vibe to the stuff coming out of Detroit on the Plus 8 label, like F.U.S.E.'s "F.U.": basslines that pulsate in sinister wave-forms like radioactive ore, rigorous programmed beats, synth-twitches that instil a strange ectastic dread. Unlike UK hardcore's epileptic basslines and sped-up vocals exploding like fireworks, this music doesn't speed-rush forwards in blind propulsion; the repetition seems to take you deeper and deeper towards something primal and not a little threatening.

Voodoo possession is the model here, rather than the hyper-hyper exhiliration-whizz of breakbeat house. "Drugs Work" by System 01 is like venturing into a cyberdelic jungle, parting wave after wave of foliage towards some secret, pagan grove. Maurizio's "Ploy" is a cloud of oscillations and wave-forms that's almost beyond
dance. Voov's "It's Anything You Want It To be And It's A Gas" assembles programmed rhythms and grids of sequencer pulses into a percussive lattice of near-symphonic
complexity. Mind Gear's "Don't Panic" is simply symphonic, rivalling the poignant grandeur of Orbital's "Belfast". A brilliant compilation.

Planet Core Productions's Frankfurt Trax offers more German vanguard techno. Abbreviate the label's name to PCP and you get a good idea of the vibe of the Frankfurt sound: mad-as-hell, mental-as-fuck, apoplectic/apocalyptic frenzy,
all stomping 4/4 beats and gut-busting bass-blasts. Mescalinum United's "We Have Arrived" is a storm-trooper stampede with a smeared, blaring riff that'll rip your
entrails out. With its infernal bass and down-swooping drones, "Nightflight (nonstop to kaos)" by The Mover presents Frontal Sickness is like a cybernetic version of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man". But it's not all mayhem. Six Mullahs' "Persian Lover" is an Islam-otronic mood piece. Project AE's "Whales Alive" is an extraordinary, undulating soundscape: stereo-panning slow beats, brief arias of whale song, tidal
synths, a terra-technic bass that glows like the Earth's core. Imagine "Once In A Lifetime" if Talking Heads had been ripping off Kraftwerk rather than Can.

Another brilliant compilation.


peejunk@home said...

The picture above the post is actually from a clip of american police coming in with hellicopters, shutting down an Evol Intent drum'n'bass night on some farm in Utah, they beat the shit out of few security guards, and some ravers, and the story is that they also molested the farmer/owner of the property who gave the kids premission to use the property for a party. Mid 2000s. Gotta love them authorities in the USA.

simon reynolds said...

yeah i was looking for a classic early 90s pic of German tekno warriors in camoflage gear and gas maskas, stomping at E Werk or Tresor itself -- but couldn't find anything on the web. So i picked this for its vaguely paramilitary rave-as-warzone vibe!