Techno right now has a problem. It’s kind of a nice problem to have. There’s some music that’s just terrifically well-produced in the spotlight, so much so that it’s tough to say no to it. It’s a bit like having the number to a Chinese takeout place and knowing every time they deliver it’s going to be delicious. Yeah, tonight you should really cook a nice, heal– oh, come on, though, sesame chicken.
What I mean is nicely summed up by the latest mix from Function. This is about as perfect a snapshot you’ll find of a particular mode in techno. It isn’t, in any real sense, really experimental or progressive. It’s the classical chamber music of the dance floor, drawing a line between a scene in the 90s to one that flourishes today, after years of careful gardening.
Don’t be overly put off by the fact that this is Berghain techno or that the photo of Function makes it look like he’s feeling a bit down as he wanders a car park late at night. (Caption: “$(#&*. Someone just keyed my rental car.”) The mix is something many of you (not all of you, but many of you) I think will thoroughly enjoy hearing.
And for his part, Function is upfront about what his intentions are. Part of what he can do is take you into his musical world. Since you can’t take photos inside Berghain (and a picture doesn’t really capture music, anyway), this is a way in from wherever you are using your mind. But notice the connection to 90s Manhattan, too:
“The mix is about Berghain, an approximation of the way I play there and the relationship I have with the club. That relationship is similar to the one I had with my first home, Limelight, in New York City from the early 90s onwards.”
That sense of careful historicism isn’t incidental. And I suspect that’s why Ostgut is quietly putting out this mix (as an uncompressed WAV file, no less). This is their marketing. This sound and the people who really believe in it are what draw people, what create this center. (I was joking about the Chinese takeout, maybe because it’s just before lunch. A better metaphor is actually foodies following a chef, people who do care about what they’re consuming. No MSG, for sure.)
Function’s selections and mixing here, though, are first-rate – perhaps aware that unlike a lot of mixes and podcasts, the Ostgut ones will get careful listens, dissections. And the quality here might be deceptively easy to copy. You could easily mix together something with these artists and some related people, but that might miss the point. The relationships between artists here and the way they’re assembled is significant. So, there’s some caution that people drawn to the success and appeal of the Ostgut crew don’t just ape the list of artists, but the actual missing.
Or, maybe, that they go a different direction entirely. With this sense of historical stability and the audience now built around it, there ought to be new opportunities for experimentation around the fringe. With some knowledge of the way this music works, the next few years could be about people who warp and extend the meaning of techno around this, and who draw necessary connections with experimental and ambient music (among other things).
In the meantime, though, let’s have a nice night out with that “classical” form, because it’s a terrific mix – and the recent output of many of these artists as producers and DJs has in my experience been exceptional. For all the criticisms that the form is dry or cold, here there’s a consistent thread of groove – understated, maybe, but maintained by a DJ who doesn’t let the dance floor slip off for a beer. Cassegrain & Tin Man, Carl Craig, Silent Servant, Rrose, DVS1, and Function I’ve all heard recently and they’ve been terrific. And I hope these folks experiment, too, with some of that success – Cassegrain & Tin Man play delicious live sets. I heard Ed Davenport last night play what he claimed was his first live set ever on a bunch of hardware (Waldorf Streichfett, Roland TR-8 front and center), and it was terrific. History, classical techno, and some risks, and I think anyone complaining is probably just off their gourd.
Now, here’s your free lunch – well, really, your free dinner. Get some takeout, and you’ve got a cheap date for yourself.
1 Tadeo Reqiuem [00:00]
2 Post Scriptum Constant Acceleration Drive [01:33]
3 Rødhåd Kinder der Ringwelt [05:01]
4 Christian Wünsch Auger Electrons [08:24]
5 DVS1 Electric [12:26]
6 Mark Broom Satellite [14:24]
7 Rrose Signs [18:45]
8 Teste The Wipe [21:37]
9 CJ Bolland Horsepower [26:38]
10 Cleric Concrete [31:39]
11 Blue Hour Common Ground [33:24]
12 Peter Van Hoesen Objects From The Past (Neel Remix) [36:00]
13 Psykofuk Psykofuk [37:55]
14 Steve Bicknell Transcendence #3 [41:54]
15 Post Scriptum Human Timescales [42:31]
16 Steve Bicknell Odyssey #1 [46:42]
17 Steve Bicknell Odyssey #2 [46:46]
18 Planetary Assault Systems Arc [47:15]
19 Allen Kepler [48:59]
20 Cassegrain & Tin Man Oxide [51:07]
21 Inland Sca Fell [53:25]
22 Truncate 86 [56:20]
23 L.B. Dub Corp Roller feat. Function (Len Faki Interpretation) [59:17]
24 Function Golden Dawn feat. Stefanie Parnow (Live Version) [1:02:36]
25 Carl Craig Twilight [1:05:40]
26 L.B. Dub Corp So Much [1:07:50]
27 Blue Hour Parallels [1:13:31]
28 Abdulla Rashim A Shell Of Speed [1:15:35]
29 Silent Servant Noise Treatment I [1:18:08]
30 Sandwell District Untitled A [1:21:54]
Mixed and compiled by Function
For still more music, the free mix is accompanied by two EPs, available as both 12″ vinyl and digital. They’re eight exclusive tracks – and the lovely Tim Xavier does the mastering; everything is quite perfectly tailored. I really can’t say enough good things about Function’s collaboration with Ed Davenport and the stuff Ed is doing now, here as Inland. Ed’s influence is throughout these records but it’s especially nice to hear “Sea Fell,” which I would call heavy, oldschool, wacky weird stuff, or … well, once you’re in the Ostgut spectrum, what they instead call “melodic, almost joyful, uplifting piece of music.” Yeah, careful, a few more steps and it’s the Bach Easter Oratorio. Heh. But it lifts my spirits, anyway!
It’s great to see Ostgut come into its own – these are releases that, branded as “Berghain” or not, can live up to the reputation of the club. It isn’t a club that happens to have a label; there’s a feeling that you can appreciate the label experience on its own.