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Marcel Dettmann - Dettmann




Anyone who knows minimal techno knows Marcel Dettman, or should.  His is one of the brightest and most influential voices in the genre, simultaneously trendsetting and trend-defying.  Impressively, he has built this reputation in only a few years—three and a half, to be precise.  But, through an impressive set of singles for Ostgut and his own imprint, built it he has. Thus I was very excited to get my hands on ‘Dettmann,’ his new album for Ostgut.  I was not disappointed.   

‘Detmann’ takes a few listens before its genius sinks in.  This is often the case for good minimal techno, but it’s even more pronounced here.  Other great albums of the past year—by Ben Klock, Locke and others—have been more immediately gratifying, listenable or path breaking.  At first listen, ‘Dettmann’ appears none of these things, but in fact, it is all of them.  

The album starts with the unassuming “Quasi (Intro),” a deep, Chain Reaction style dub that, let’s face it, has become par for the course for German minimal producers.  But it’s quick, tidy and quirkier than normal.  The rather trebly “Argon” follows, a simple but loop on repeat for 3 minutes.  On its own, it might have wobbly legs.  But when it blasts into “Screen”—an energetic, Purpose Maker-like track combining tribal drums, re-sampled beats, 303 blips and over strange oscillations—and you have the impossible, a techno album capturing the thrill of a techno set.   

‘Dettmann’ continues to follow the logic of the DJ set. Certain tracks immediately grab you, such as the melancholic, synth-driven “Drawing.” “Captivate” is another, which like “Screen,” brings the glory days of mid-90s techno to mind.  This time, though, you can hear Surgeon, Regis and Basic Implant inhabiting the same sonic space as Jeff Mills.  Somehow, though, it’s doesn’t sound derivative.  A third standout is the dark “Viscous,” which always threatens to bring the house down with a thunderous kick, yet never acts on this impulse.   

Interspersed around these tracks are more percussive and atmospheric tracks. Though less compelling at first listen, their subtlety grows on you.  I particularly liked the creepy nebulaic funk of “Silex,” and hypnotic landscapes of “Motive.” What’s more, these tracks are all great tools for DJs looking to build up tension in a set.  Incidentally, that’s exactly what they do on ‘Dettmann.’   

‘Dettmann’ is, without a doubt, a great example of what can be achieved within the genre. What’s more, old hats will appreciate Dettman’s keen sense if techno’s history—though he wears his influences on his sleeve, he repurposes them in striking ways. This is a deep, challenging album that offers great rewards for patient listeners.  Highly recommended. 

Gustav Brown

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