2016 has been a colorful year at the steely offices of Ostgut Ton. Alongside a heap of techno releases, the Berghain-affiliated imprint also let loose an acid-fueled EP by Matthew Styles, joyful house from Nick Höppner & Gonno, an ambient LP by Luke Slater’s 7th Plain project, and Virginia's pop-heavy debut full-length.
As the year draws to a close, the addition of an album by Sam Barker (a.k.a. Voltek) and Andreas Baumecker (a.k.a. nd_Baumecker) goes some way to extending that scope further. Known for a certain unpredictability when they get together in the studio, the Barker & Baumecker back-catalog covers all sorts of electronic ground. The duo's debut full-length, for example, was celebrated for the variety of angles it approached regular house and techno from.
Their latest outing together, Turns, is a tale of two albums—a dichotomy that pivots on the brief, echoic interlude of “Technogate.” What precedes that short-lived breather is as theatrical as techno can be. The three intricately-woven cuts, though all quite different, share some key ingredients in common: drama, darkness and grandeur.
It’s easy to get lost in 12-minute epic “Senden,” a lofty opener that moves through a number of episodes, from moody chords, through some broken beats, ending in a chorus of climactic chimes. The pair continue story-telling in "Encipher & Decipher," where a beatless, piano-driven opening gives way to a bellowing kick. At this point, four-to-the-floor techno is almost forgotten and it's a welcome punch; a contrast from the awkward, squelchy beats of "Club Entropicana."
The pair undergo a personality shift in the latter half of the album. Abstract expressionism falls to the wayside, as they adopt a more typically dancefloor-ready demeanour. There's the washed-out Detroit vibes of "Nocturnal," or the optimistic "Turnhalle," a chugging track that sounds like a Livity Sound record in full effect. 14-minute closer "Statik," one of the LP's finest moments, also carries some UK flavor in its precise, filtered-out percussion, which loads the atmospheric techno with energy. As its final minutes drop off into euphoric synths, the murkiness that came before is forgotten.
The two sides are quite difficult to square, with only a few telltale production traits connecting them. As a whole, it's an album that requires patience and faith; but, committing to its lengthy and often spaced-out tracks will reward.
The intricate design work that runs throughout Turns is masterful, rendering the techno-related productions as intriguing as they are exciting.
Turns is out now. Order it at the Ostgut Ton store.
02. Encipher & Decipher
03. Club Entropicana