Henrik Schwarz / Dettmann & Wiedemann / DIN: Masse
Ostgut Ton

I don't profess to be familiar with every recording Ostgut Ton has released, but I'd be willing to wager that Masse might be the one least characteristic of its muscular techno style. The reason for that isn't a matter of contrivance, however, as Masse has the distinction of being music Henrik Schwarz, Marcel Dettmann and Frank Wiedemann, and DIN (Marcel Fengler and Phillip Sollmann) created for an evening of contemporary dance and which the three choreographers involved used as a starting point for the onstage works they presented at the Halle am Berghain, a former heat-and-power station next to Club Berghain. Anyone expecting beats of the kind that appear on a typical Ostgut Ton release will be largely disappointed—which isn't to suggest, of course, that the musical material lacks rhythm, as there is rhythm aplenty in their respective pieces, just as one would expect given the dance connection.

That Masse will take the road less traveled is immediately apparent when Schwarz begins his Balletsuite #1 – Masse with the South American-styled swing of “Unknown Touch” and its hyperactive flurries of acoustic guitars, piano, and strings (pizzicato and bowed). Absent in the opening tracks, drums do appear in the third, “I Am Not Responsible For That,” though presented in somewhat of a martial style and as part of a raw, guitar-driven fabric. The fourth, “But Then I'm Different” (featuring additional sounds by Robert Henke), takes an abrupt left turn in presenting a beatless kosmische setting scored for for warbly synthesizer, after which “When Things Are Difficult” pairs a low-end techno pulse with strings and synths. Schwarz's suite is so wide-ranging with respect to style and instrumentation that, even if it's low on a unity scale, it registers high in terms of aural stimulation and variety.

Marcel Dettmann and Frank Wiedemann follow Schwarz with Menuett, a twenty-five-minute tryptichon that opens with a deep space meditation (“Accelerando”) that's about as far removed from conventional dance music as possible. In this electroacoustic prologue, echo-laced accents of bowl percussion and sci-fi crackle dominate until first “Martellato” arrives, bringing with it wiry rhythmic figures that grow more aggressive and vertiginous as the minutes pass, and then “Spiritoso,” a brooding, synths-and-kalimbas-inflected closer.

Operating under the DIN name, Phillip Sollmann (aka Efdemin) and Marcel Fengler perpetuate the recording's wide-ranging vibe with EVOLVE, a seven-part work that starts with a keyboards-only “(prelude)” before plunging into a realm reminiscent of “Accelerando.” DIN's material alternates between heavy tribal rhythm sequences and beatless cosmic reveries—the primal and galaxial conjoined—as it makes its way through the strings-drenched “Oscillation,” sequencers-driven “Division,” and hard-hitting “Generation” before coming to rest with the Monolake-styled “Conclusion.” As is often the case with an audio-visual project such as Masse, the listener comes away from it thinking that a DVD presentation would have made the most sense, as then one would have been able to see the dance performances as well as hear the music that inspired them. Having said that, there's lots to listen to on the eighty-minute release and it's generally engaging, too, especially when works by multiple producers are featured.

June 2013