Marcel Dettmann embraces bad taste on the electric EP, ‘Commander’
Berghain is basically the techno’s answer to Mecca. The venue is paradigmatic of underground nightlife and techno culture, the epoch seat of techno’s gods and tastemakers which has influenced the direction of the style and its endless sub-categories for decades. Marcel Dettmann is one such god. One of the most recognised residents in the Berghain pantheon, his seminal Berghain 02 mix of 2008 launched Dettman into the stratosphere of techno legends alongside the likes of Luke Slater and Jeff Mills. Though as an artist, he is anything but a purist. His fusion of innovative ideas with old-school traditions have produced a signature style for Dettman that is textured, rough and unpredictable, unafraid to transgress and transmute the blueprint laid by Detroit.
His latest EP, Commandsees Dettman not only pushing the boundaries of techno, but his own as an artist. On Command, he experiments with genre-bending new sounds and a noxious audacity in his most ostentatious release to date. It makes sense that this EP is released via Modeselektor’s Seilscheibenpfeiler label as opposed to Dettman’s usual place on OstgutTon, as the influence of Modeselektor here is immediate. This is perhaps most apparent in the freedom that Seilscheibenpfeiler seems to give Dettman, allowing him to earnestly embrace and find in his own work Modeselektor’s spirit of kitsch-pop. This makes for an insanely fun record that sees Dettman flirt with guilty pleasure motifs like obnoxious buzzsaw synths and ultra down-pitched vocal samples on Enter. The hyperactive, Monster drinking banger uses these motifs to cocksure effect, and Dettman’s interplay of the lowbrow within his own technical wheelhouse is deliciously tongue-in-cheek. Every cut is particularly club focussed and with Dettman seemingly unscathed by bad taste, this makes Command’s dirtier moments positively filthy. On Control, a bonkers retro modular mutation, Dettman loses control of the high pass filter and subsequently, we lose control of our collective cool.
Return is the most straightforward techno track on the collection, and by virtue perhaps the most recognisably Dettman. But the joy of this EP is in the colour of the textures and variations that Dettman dives into, having an absolute blast as he swims through vodka-Redbulls and holographic biodegradable glitter. This is the most satisfying part of Command; experiencing a serious artist try to not take himself too seriously. All of the track titles are eponymous with keyboard functions, after all. There’s a light trashiness to the music on Command that is a welcome injection of smut into Dettman’s catalogue, particularly after the scholarly Conducted and the cerebral abstractions of Test-File. Techno culture can get seriously stuffy. Obsessing over categorisations and stylistic purity, technophiles often lose touch with the sense of playful and downright dirty fun that the genre invites. Command is a neck-snapping reminder to the people from one of techno’s titans that sometimes, you just have to shut up and dance.