Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Compulsion to Repeat / Marcel Dettman, Berghain 02

Berghain by day

A fan of techno can, in certain situations, become an occultist without any easy frame of reference for those in his company. Any doctor, however, who would grant me even the most cursory of examinations would be hard-pressed to miss a fairly simple biological explanation for why I personally keep company with techno, with repetitive music in general, with things of great duration and minimal variance. 

My own mind has at times a marked scattershot rhythm, which like any other mental condition is something one must learn to accommodate and to utilize, to put to work according to its strengths and its limitations. This is why, for example, certain substances or activities that put others to sleep tend to sharpen otherwise occasionally diffuse mental activity in my head, leaving me unable to shut down, leaving me restless in the dawn, while my evening's friends lay silent all around.

And this is why, I'd say, I find myself so often turning to repetition in art, in pictures and in words and in sounds - suddenly a space is opened where a single phenomenon commands terrific attention to the minor subtleties of its unfolding. of its modalities. Like holding a precious stone to the light and turning it slowly. 

In life, a predilection for tangents, for horizontal connections, for the subterranean resonance between disciplines. In art, the depth plunge, dragged by the sudden gravity of one event, hardened as if into a dense stellar body, a steel-grey neutron star. A weight and counterweight, a balance. 

But of course this is only one example of how art and life respond to one another, one exchange in their infinite conversation. 

Regard for art must consider biology, aesthetic criticism must become medicinal. This is not to limit the discussion to art therapy, but to expand the force of those two terms, until therapy loses its self-help connotations, until it expands to become a material science, concerned with the regulation and evaluation of humors, of speeds and intensities.

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Marcel Dettman is a resident at Berlin's Berghain club, recently voted the best overall techno club by readers of Resident Advisor. A hoary, hulking form in the urban desert of East Berlin, walking distance from what remains of the Wall. His new mix, out on Berghain's own Ostgut label, is a testament to minimal techno, trying to balance landmark tracks with contemporary developments. There are some at times off balance transitions that result from this, but the track selection is amazing, and shows all the exciting potentials and rich contours of a genre which most Americans still associate with wearing neon synthetic pants in high school. Ride for it. 

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