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Friday
Nov262010

V/A - Fünf

V/A - Fünf

Ostgut Ton

I once lived in a house with a door that squeaked like Terrorist, so I feel fully qualified to write about Fünf, the five year anniversary compilation from Berghain’s in-house record label Ostgut Ton. If you don’t know already, all the tracks on the album take as a starting point a library of sound samples field-recorded at the club by the sound artist Emika, reconstituted into Berghain techno and Panoramabar house by the resident DJs.

But if you didn’t know already, you might never realise. This is representative Ostgut, not field recordings, and it’s all the better for it. Saying that, it can be fun to detract from the listening experience and try a quick session of “spot the sample”. Is that the sound of a security guard absentmindedly knocking his keys against a radiator as he locks up on Monday morning on SCB’s Down Moment? Is that the hand-dryers in the gents in Soundstream’s Wenn Meine Mutti Wüsste? And, at the start of Holdon from Murat Tepeli & Elif Biçer, is that really a drunken English stag party kicking off at the bouncers as they are refused entry ?

Probably not, but Fünf suggests one reason for the legendarily restrictive door policy at Berghain might be that the musical directors find pleasure in the echoing of cavernous empty spaces. Indeed, in a gloriously conceptual piece of fetishism, one of the provided library elements was a reverb plugin constructed to match that of the club’s main room. And several tracks use “Room” in their title, with a couple using “Boom”. The logical conclusion is thus Shed’s Boom Room, which is actually a decent (if cavernously echoing) dubstep/techno crossover in the popular Berlin style with some tasty stabs.

The album doesn’t exactly flow - of which more later - so it’s best to focus on some more of the individual highlights. Greatest amongst these is the astounding Gestalts, a rare non-remix appearance of DJ Pete’s Substance project, which demonstrates exactly what abandoned-power-station influenced techno should sound like.  Likewise, Barker & Baumecker’s Drin and Luke Slater’s Boom Tang Schwuck embed the ruling ”metal bashing echo” aesthetic in Live At The Liquid Rooms distorted kicks and harsh vibes. And Marcel Dettmann supplies Scourer, a typically lean stripped-back jacker.

On a gentler note, ISP from label boss Nick Höppner is gorgeously produced and syncopated tech-house, and Holdon could be an outtake from Murat Tepeli’s excellent 2009 Serenity album (that was with Prosumer, whose own contribution Daybreak is unfortunately somewhat dull). Tama Sumo’s Iron Glance builds from a slow start into a spacious house track with a bassline so monumental that you can practically see it in front of you. This is also an example of a refreshing point that really shouldn’t need to be remarked on - the number of female artists on the album.

There are a couple of misfires - bizarrely, the two opening tracks are the worst on the album, and a frustrating Norman Nodge quasi-ambient track shows none of the steely focus of his 12” releases. And whilst they are decent enough, Soundstream and Fiedel’s contributions are not really worthy of joining the limited canon of Smith N Hack and MMM.

All this is picking holes in a good compilation, but the biggest flaw is that the whole album would have worked better as or accompanied by a mix. At least five of the tracks are essentially DJ tools that cry out to be heard in the context of a heads-down session: hardly tracks for home listener consumption. Of course, “home listener consumption” is not what Ostgut and Berghain are about, but in that case who is this album aimed at? DJs? Fans of conceptual sound art?

Perhaps if one of the vaunted Berghain residents had made a third mixed CD from the raw materials on the main album Fünf could have been truly great. Forget the fridges, strobes, air conditioning units and hand dryers - although Fünf attempts to capture its essence, the listener misses out on the single essential element of the Berghain experience: the DJ.

Sam Stagg

Reader Comments (1)

Fünf has some great tracks on it, and a few dogs, as something this ambitious will always have. As alluded to with the suggestion of a mixed CD - the biggest problem is the track sequencing. What - were all the tracks names put in a hat and drawn at random ?! Far better to dump on your HD re-order the tracks.
One point also has to be noted - the packaging is terrific !and I love the way the inner CD envelopes look like old floppy discs (for us oldies who remember such a geriatric format).

November 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpetesrdic

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