In the pantheon of techno deities, Marcell Dettmann is among the most renowned. Synonymous with three of the genre's big Bs - Berlin, Berghain, and Ben (Klock) - Dettmann is simultaneously a DJs DJ and all around electronic music icon.
Rough, rugged, and raw, his innovative techno sound has garnered him as a globe-trotting DJ, in-demand remixer, and risk-taking label boss. Those labels, the self-conducted MDR and Bad Manners, have featured numerous classic Dettmann productions over the years. But, despite all this, his LP output has been scarce.
Coming nearly ten years since his last full-length album release, Fear of Programming sees the Berghain (and Ostgut before that) resident at his most fluid. At times a romp through the various global influences that have permeated his musicality since the beginning, the Dekmantel Records release also reflects an artistic process at a singular moment. Through its 13 tracks, pulsating techno intercuts with cinematic ambience, beatless epics, angular electronica, and dancefloor workouts. Shades of Chicago, Detroit, the UK and Continental Europe also inform its diverse musical textures.
Of these textures, the minimal Water, featuring vocals by fellow Berghain resident Ryan Elliott, elicits the paired back sound of previous full-length's Dettmann I + II. A simple, daringly graceful (a rare feat among minimal electronic music) cut, Water may simultaneously be the album's clearest peer into the Marcel Dettmann of now. Also on the laidback spectrum, the album features amorphous, almost beatless tracks like Transport or the one-two of opener Coral and the eponymous closer. Each are sonic yins to harsher sounding yangs, perfect examples of Dettmann's foray into the DJ mixes and exploratory compilations that have defined his 2010s output.
But, of course, we're mostly here for those machinated yangs. And, for those, Fear of Programming doesn't disappoint. Primary among them is the industrial soundscapes of Pxls and the throwback x12. While the latter reminded me of classic Joey Beltram, the former is a stunning example of Dettmann's prowess as a sound designer and audio engineer. As a duo, the tracks world-build somewhere between cassette futurism and cyberpunk dystopia. Building on x12's classic rave feel (albeit more the early 90s), Fear of Programming also dives into several 80s audio aesthetics. These include the modular synths of (Batteries Not Included) and the crunchy, analog bass of Suffice to Predict. From there, listeners continue their electronic genre journey through ACID techno (Renewal Theory), Drone (Selective Dissolution), Electro (Picture 2020) and even Vaporware (Renewal Theory).
Fear of Programming sounds like a natural evolution from Dettmann's previous Dekmantel offering, 2017's Selectors 003 mix. Though produced rather than curated, it is a complete statement of the German legend in the here and now, musically and emotionally. A versatile presentation of techno's past and his own future, Fear of Programming is Marcel Dettmann at his most introspective and versatile.