Marcel Fengler: Fokus
In some ways, Marcel Fengler's Fokus seems like a natural complement to Masse, the recent dance-oriented production featuring material by Henrik Schwarz, Dettmann & Wiedemann, and DIN, given that both releases show Ostgut Ton expanding its vision beyond strict hard club techno into more experimental zones. Having issued a number of twelve-inch releases and helmed the DJ chair for his Berghain 05 mix CD, Fengler immersed himself for three intense months in his Berlin studio to craft a debut long-player that makes a strong case for his particular brand of electronic music-making.
As if to make the point as clearly as possible, Fengler begins the fifty-six-minute album with a piece free of beats (a pulsating pattern aside) and instead focuses on sweeping swaths of ambient synthesis and ethereal choir exhalations (“Break Through”). But then, as if to reassure the listener that his rhythm-based approach of yore hasn't been abandoned, he presents “Mayria,” a pounding techno-driven cut that's as atmospheric as the opener (the presence of ululating voices ensures that) but whose relentless groove delivers a lacerating gut-punch. Fengler also indulges his harder side on “King of Psi” by grounding its twinkling atmospherics and insistent 4/4 pulse with a pile-driving drum pattern.
But even when Fengler's in full-on techno mode, the material still feels experimental, as if he's intent on resetting the established boundaries of his music. “The Stampede,” for example, includes a signature Ostgut Ton groove, but the track is also emblazoned with fizzy textures and high-pitched electronic accents. As gyrating is “Trespass,” but it also overlays its minimal dub-techno pulse with an unusual, organ-cloaked sound swirl that includes textures that sound like eruptions slowed-down and processed into heavily reverbed form. “Sky Pushing” might be the best possible illustration of Fengler's experimental techno concept in the way it augments a shuffling funk-techno groove with ear-bendingly discordant bell tinklings.Fokus impresses as a bold and largely successful pitch for Fengler's desire to be regarded as something more than a standard techno producer and DJ. As if to ensure that the point won't be overlooked, he ends the album with one final exercise in twinkling atmospherics, “Liquid Torso,” a track whose enigmatic title also seems a fitting choice for a collection predicated on the challenging of genre norms.