To cap off Sónar Chicago’s weekend of heady electronic music, Smart Bar hosted Berlin techno icon Marcel Dettmann for a peak time Saturday night set. To put it succinctly, he demolished it. Or, more appropriately, tore the club down speaker by speaker and drug-addled onlooker by drug-addled onlooker (I too found myself lost somewhere in the rubble of the aftermath). A master of his art, Dettmann displayed a connection to the genre as classic as the Detroit greats and as boundary-pushing as those yet to be discovered. This type of experience is a rare one in the Midwest, so for those that couldn't attend, dive into his debut full-length for the Ostgut Ton label, and get a taste for what this man has to offer.
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Originally published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 09.09.10
Maybe it was Kraftwerk’s German efficiency or possibly Juan Atkins’s love of sci-fi. Whatever the root, techno has a profound fondness of the future and the sleek philosophy of less is more. Still, amid all those cold ones and zeroes, there’s a ghost in the machine, a soul giving the genre its digital warmth, and Marcel Dettmann has the paranormal ability of a ghost whisperer.
Dettmann is a founding resident at Berlin’s Berghain club, a modern equivalent to the Warehouse or the Paradise Garage in terms of its influence on dance culture. This means he can be likened to a minimal-tech version of Frankie Knuckles. Such laurels are not easy to earn considering the divisive factions of techno purists. Fortunately, Dettmann’s precision as a DJ and his consummate love of techno garner considerable respect.
His debut for Berghain’s in-house label exudes this same meticulousness and appreciation. Early tracks are stark and industrial. Opener “Argon” clicks along like an army of mechanized ants in a cavernous hallway. “Screen” displays techno’s telltale futurism, recalling 2001: A Space Odyssey, only in this version, HAL’s programming initiative is to make us dance.
Later, the record evolves into deeper tones. “Drawing” is introspective and sprawling and “Irritant” sounds as if humongous bouncing balls were recorded in an echo chamber and then synced with the cackle of a hi-hat. Often I wonder if the pervasive, understated thump is enough to get a club moving, but the man’s DJ sets are the stuff of legend and his productions are pristine enough to make masters like Richie Hawtin squirm with envy.
—Joshua P. Ferguson
If the LP isn't enough to quench your techno thirst, peep this DJ mix he did for Fact Magazine: