Techno DJs will often speak of the inherent challenge they face in distilling their set into an 80 minute mix. It could be argued that the residents of Berlin's Berghain, who routinely get eight hours or more in which to show their wares, face the toughest challenge. How to encapsulate that in a brief home listening experience? Yet in practice, past instalments of the Berghain series from Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock proved to be among the foremost techno mixes in their respective years of release. The counter to this argument could be that those at the Berghain controls simply have that much more deck time in which to hone their programming skills—take an existing, highly tuned discipline and apply it to a different (shorter) template.
Although he hasn't generated the same mass of critical interest as some of his fellow residents, Marcel Fengler has been pushing extended sessions since Berghain's opening night. This could mostly be attributed to his comparatively conservative release schedule. Fengler has also often occupied a specific space in the minds of attendees: locals don't necessarily go specifically to see him ("he's great but I can catch him next time"); and tourists don't necessarily book flights around his performances. And while Berghain 05 certainly won't turn Fengler into a "star" it should help address this imbalance of recognition, as he richly deserves.
With barely any vocals, little melodic content and few excursions into more easily accessible genres, the basis of Berghain 05's success comes down to Fengler's control over timbre. This in itself is tough to articulate, but think of it this way: if something in your brain is telling you "I would love a hi-hat right about now" there's a very strong possibility he's about to give you one. This becomes all the more apparent at the "business end" of the mix (tracks seven through 16). The section starts out with a rare Minneapolis mix of Secret Cinema's 1996-released "Timeless Altitude" (pitched-down considerably) and finishes up with "Man on Wire," a bumping new production from Swedish duo Skudge. In between Fengler rolls like a pig in muck, adroitly layering grooves via precise and unfussy mixing, each juxtaposition nearly always making perfect tonal sense.
Work backwards (or "Count Backwards" as the first track would have it) and the opening mood is one of austerity. The liquid-like arpeggios of Peter van Hoesen's "Axis Mundi" (one of three exclusive tracks) are confident, and at least a little positive, but quickly give way to gritty broken beats (the Octogen remix of Terrence Dixon, the Dr. Walker remix of Byetone). By track five—Regis' seriously rank remix of Tommy Four Seven's "G"—there's a fleeting feeling of too much too soon, but the insane flight is brought to land (in part) through L.B. Dub Corp's remix of Fengler's "Thwack."
A similarly defining transition is marked as the mix reaches its conclusion. It'll take a couple of listens to appreciate it fully, but Reagenz limbering up their Nord Modular for "The Labyrinth" at the tail end of Skudge is a wonderful inverted climax; a peak at which the mix is actually at its most airy. Berghain 05 snakes through house, techno, garage, electro and experimental yet whispers "coherence" rather than screaming "diversity."Like Klock and Dettmann before him, Fengler's entry into this mostly excellent series should go down as one of this year's finest examples of the form.
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Tracklist: Marcel Fengler - Berghain 05 01. Emika - Count Backwards (Marcel Dettmann Vocal Edit)
02. Peter van Hoesen - Axis Mundi
03. Terrence Dixon - Tranquility (Octagen Remix)
04. Byetone - Plastic Star (Dr. Walker Remix)
05. Tommy Four Seven - G (Regis Remix)
06. Marcel Fengler - Thwack (L.B. Dub Corp Remix)
07. Secret Cinema - Timeless Altitude (Minneapolis Mix)
08. Ratio - Double Feature
09. Gerd - Time and Space (Duplex Southside Mix)
10. Seiji - More Of You
11. Claude Young & Takasi Nakajima - Think Twice
12. Puresque - 001A
13. Ben Sims - Slow Motion
14. Vril - UV
15. Marcel Fengler - Sphinx
16. Skudge - Man On Wire
17. Reagenz - The Labyrinth
18. 20:20 Vision - Future Remembrance (20:20 Livestyle Mix)
19. Convextion AKA E.R.P. - Vapor Pressure