Saturday, 7 January 2012
Review: Dominik Eulberg - Diorama
I'll be honest: I expected Dominik Eulberg's new album Diorama to be yet more middling trendster techno. I don't know shit about Dominik Eulberg, except a vague impression of his trendiness and his technoness. He released an album on Cocoon, which is enough for me. I'm only listening to this damn shit in the interests of being fair (lit: looking more eclectic than I actually am).
Anyway, surprise surprise when Diorama actually turns out to be great stuff. It's quite difficult to put a finger on what genre we're operating in here. Techno, of the melodic, Germanic post-millenial ilk, seems to be the root of the album, but there's an awful lot here you won't find on a typical techno record. Live instruments, for one. Live drums at that! That's pretty much the antithesis of techno. That's like, folk, or something.
To elaborate in a a slightly less facetious manner, techno has often struck me as a self-defining genre, a simulacrum if you will (*puffs on pipe*). I usually struggle to tell outsiders what makes a particular track a techno record instead of a house record, or a trance record, or occasionally even an ambient record. Seriously - try it at home. Why is a Vince Watson track like Atom techno but not trance? Why is a Hardfloor track techno and not acid house? And what on Earth is tech house, and why won't people stop making it? Techno was once defined by a prescriptive external ideology about futurism, dystopia and how fucking depressing 1980s Detroit was to live in, but all that is totally obsolescent now in a world of the Internet, smart phones and overpriced energy drinks. Techno doesn't sound much like the future anymore, but rather a distinctly retro and old fashioned approximation of how the future might have sounded if 1982 had gone on forever, sort of like how Robocop is a vision of the future where we have sentient battle droids policing our streets but TVs are still made out of wood and weigh 250lbs. Most techno producers are quite purist and insular, endlessly re-referencing Detroit and the Belleville trio and Alvin Toffler and all this fucking shit, and I suspect techno is actually just a certain set of synth sounds and production techniques. Well, I suspect any genre of music is just a certain set of sounds and techniques... damnit, what was the point here?
The point is that techno has never featured live drumming and real instruments. They aren't in the manual. So when Dominik Eulberg (remember him?) uses them on his album, does that preclude this from being techno? Most of the musical elements here, pretty arpeggios and lush stringy chords, could belong to any number of genres, and there few of the classic techno signifiers in terms of textures and timbres. This is a pretty unique album, alright. I guess someone who's listened to loads of stuff off Kompakt or wherever can point out lots of hipster-techno that uses live instrumentation alongside pretty and melodic sounds, but nobody is reading this blog so that's unlikely to happen.
I don't just like this album a whole lot because it sounds unique, but also because it sounds good, in a way that appeals to me: melodic, atmospheric, trancey. It's a feel good record too, which you can't say about much techno. That whole DARKWAREHOUSEWANKERS thing doesn't work too well on a summer's day, but this is an extremely summery album.
Look, I'm going to be honest here - I listened to this album the other night, and I've been busy with work and stuff and I can't really remember the individual tracks right now. I just have a powerful yet hazy memory of this album being fantastic. It's almost certainly going to be on the end of year list, and after a few repeat listens granted to the shortlist contenders I'll be able to summarise it a lot more articulately than the horrific nonsense I've just typed. Or you could just go and listen to it yourself. That'd be cool as well.
Genre: Hipster not-techno
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 9/10