Marcel Dettmann has been a selfless facilitator of Techno since his teens. When his hometown, the former GDR, a small suburb outside of Berlin, lacked the facilities to buy and sell records, he took it upon himself to distribute his favourite records from the likes of Depeche Mode, The Cure, Front 242 and a wave of post punk industrial cuts that influenced him at the time. It was obvious he was destined for greater things, something that would combine his love for the records, nightlife and his ear for music, and that point came when a job for Hardwax and a residency at Ostgut (Berghain’s predecessor) encouraged Dettmann to move to Berlin and sealed his fate. It coincided with a time when Techno, always the musical underdog, saw a newfound interest in the genre facilitated by the likes of Marcel Dettman and Berghain.
Following releases on Berghain’s Ostgut Ton label, Dettmann would also go on to establish MDR (Marcel Dettmann Records), tirelessly working towards promoting a sound of Techno that would be raw, but not crass, channelled through a German sensibility for the sound as influenced by the Dettmann’s exquisite ear for music and his post punk industrial influences from his youth. His highlights have been many through the course of a career which stretches back to the late nineties, but though seven defined moments we can unpack the legacy of his career in the booth and in the studio.
When Nick Höppner established the Ostgut Ton label back in 2005, Marcel Dettmann wasn’t the first artist to grace a cover. No, that honour went to André Galluzzi who mixed the first comp for the label. When Marcel Dettmann mixed the second official Berghain compilation however it brought the attitude, style and energy of Berghain to life on a record for the first time. It firmly placed the club in the popular consciousness for good, and that queue snaking its way outside of Berghain is in part due to Dettmann’s rise in popularity during that time. Planetary Assault Systems, Redshape, Norman Nodge and Shed all contribute to timeless Techno document that even today outlives its time and its place. It’s Dettmann’s purist pursuit of the genre that has made him the unprecedented selector he is today.
Dawning / Dead Man Watches The Clock
He might not have the honour of the official first Ostgut Ton release, but together with Ben Klock he does claim the o-ton01 catalogue number. “Dawning / Dead Man Watches The Clock” was the first EP of original material to hit the shelves under the Ostgut Ton label. At a time where minimal Techno was sweeping across the dance floor, Klock and Dettman moved Techno out of its temporal comfort zone. Still incorporating the less-is-more approach, but forgoing the placid trancedal qualities of their time, Dettmann and Klock took from their impressive knowledge of dance music’s history with elements of Acid, EBM and Techno in its purest form all informing this two track release. “Dead Man watches the Clock” and “Dawning” are two sides of the same coin, one offering a contrast to the next, where acid bass lines are smoothed over by celestial melodic lead lines on the other side.
Vril is enjoying a kind of popularity today that puts the German producer in the same echelon with Marcel Dettmann, and a big part of his appeal was due to the success of this track which Dettmann played a hand in bringing it to the masses through his conducted mix and compilation. Released through Music Man records in 2011 it’s Marcel Dettmann at his usual best, mixing the old with the new, and putting the obscure in the context with the familiar in a way only he can. Dettman’s keen ear for new music caught this track way before anyone else did, and building on his reputation as a selector and a tastemaker, V3 was just one of many modern Techno classics first heard in the context of a Marcel Dettmann mix.
The debut album from the German producer would cement his reputation in the studio after establishing a his provenance in the booth. Where he was no slouch in the EP and 12” format, he proved on “Dettmann” that he could master the album narrative in Techno too, a feat very rarely conquered in the Techno lexicon. Minimal and atmospheric Dettmann remained close to the dance floor, the German producer opting for tracky arrangements, but away from the functional beat, it oozed melodic delight. The design sounds stark and barren, but manages to outlive the zeitgeist of its era. Tracks like “Viscous” live on today as timeless individual pieces that can accommodate more than just bland functionalism.
Marcel Dettmann’s eponymous label, Marcel Dettmann Records has long been a beacon for uncompromising Techno, with Dettmann’s intuitive ear behind every release. Playing host to the likes of Norman Nodge, Answer Code Request and Kobosil, MDR is a proving ground for new talent as well as a refuge for established Techno stalwarts and friends of Dettmann, artists and DJ’s he’s gathered around Berlin and Berghain.
One of the more recent additions to the MDR catalogue, Kobosil is Dettmann’s ear to the ground again. His star quickly rose after MDR 10 where acid tinged body music cemented Kobosil’s talent on record. From there Kobosil found his way onto Ostgut Ton and the album format with the brilliant “You Grow, We Decline” bringing the Berlin talent to a wider audience. “Oath” and “V762 Cas” from MDR 10 are modern classics today and owe their existence as much to Marcel Dettmann as they do their creator.
At the height of popularity, when he could do little wrong, Marcel Dettmann has completely turned the tables on everyone and veered off into uncharted territory. Returning to the music of his roots, his sets have moved into the EBM and synth wave genres where dark sonic palettes echo against marching percussive rhythms of military precision. His Selectors compilation for Dekmantel documents his latest adventures honouring those early influences, while at the same time offering something unique in Techno for new, younger audiences. Cabaret Voltaire, The Force Dimension and A thunder Orchestra dot this release and we have it on good authority these and other like them are mostly informing the DJ’s sets these days. All that’s left is to hear for ourselves when Dettmann lands in our basement tonight…
* Marcel Dettmann joins DJ Nuhhh and Krüger for RETRO tonight.