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R_exile's review

In celebration of their fifth anniversary, Berlin’s acclaimed label Ostgut Ton have released a special compilation which comprises 24 unmixed exclusive tracks inspired by 4 gigabytes of field recordings collected inside the infamous Berghain. Fittingly entitled Fünf (“five” in German), the album sees the label’s artists and the club's associates including Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann, Norman Nodge, Cassy, SCB aka Scuba and others (23 artists in total) explore the relationship between the club and the label in a deep and vibrational manner.

Whilst composing technoid tracks with field recordings can hardly be considered as a really groundbreaking concept these days - for instance, Baustelle, the impressive techno-tinged experimental album released by German duo Greie Gut Fraktion a few months ago, was created with field recordings from construction sites (read the review here) - Fünf manages to stand out thanks to the craftsmanship and the wide range of styles delivered by the producers.

Before Berghain’s renowned intense techno rhythm makes its appearance, CD1 is kick-started with the suspenseful chimes and metallic clicks and clacks of the downtempo affair Cooling Room by Emika, who came up with the idea of conducting fielding recordings inside the club. It’s in fact after Marcel Fengler’s broken-beat-laden track Shiraz that Prosumer’s plodding 4/4 kick and Substance’s relentless techno progression gradually raise the energy level of the disc. Yet those who crave for the fierceness of industrial techno will probably not be disappointed, as later on tracks like Fiedel’s Doors To Manual and Shed’s Boom Room are able to supply a great deal of tech vehemence through their heart-throbbing beats.

Indeed the success of both Berghain and Ostgut Ton in recent years can be attributed to not only the energy, but also the depth their artists have delivered. Label head Nick Höppner’s ISP sees how sleek housey percussions, menacing drones and delicate melodies can all roll into one beautifully, whilst the dark ambience of Marcel Dettmann’s beatless Shelter and the triumphant and wobbling synths of Len Faki’s Kraft Und Licht showcase their capability to trigger resonance in a deep and affective way. One possible flaw of CD1, however, is that when Dinky’s Twelevetofour sprinkles some warm housey flavours on the dark and ominous flow of the disc through its laid-back vocal snippets and dreamy pads, it just sounds going too far and out of place.

And that’s part of the reason why CD2 is better - comparatively the second disc possesses more varieties, but at the same time manages to form a tight and coherent flow. Besides the pummelling technoid mechanisms from the likes of Klock, Dettmann, Soundstream, Luke Slater and Barker & Baumecker, the minimalist affairs by SCB and Boris as well as the female-vocal-fused pieces by Murat Tepeli and Cassy also play important roles in keeping the disc’s direction diverse and intriguing. Of course, even more intriguing are Norman Nodge’s Start Up and Margaret Dygas’s Quintet (the finale of the compilation), on which human voices, metallic noises and acoustic instruments encounter each other atop the techy beats in a uncompromising and experimental fashion.

So what can we see/hear from this album in terms of the relationship between the club and the label? On the one hand, the tracks’ deployment of field recordings from the former has to a certain extent (rather symbolically, indeed) revealed its interior, which should intrigue many especially due to its infamous strict door-policy; on the other hand, through the dark artistry of the producers the field recordings have somehow paradoxically enhanced or reinforced the mysteriousness of the cavernous powerhouse. It’ll actually be interesting to hear how those tracks sound in the club - how they resonate with the vibrations that led to their creations in the first place. Of course from the point of view of home-listening this brilliantly crafted album is definitely worth quite a few listens too - one that shouldn’t be missed by the techno fiends indeed.

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