You’d expect a compilation from a label run by a modern-day Berlin techno luminary to be defined by a taut and muscular momentum. You’d probably also surmise it to be a collection of tracks that roll along without blatantly obvious breakdowns; you’d assume that the bpms would generally be in the very high 120 to the mid-130s; and you’d be surprised if the selections weren’t both crisply efficient and fairly moody. And most of the music on Klockworks 20, the 20th release from Ben Klock’s Klockworks label, ticks off all those boxes.
But Klock, of course is of course no ordinary techno luminary. Thanks to a long career steeped in the genre, during which he emerged as a key player in the Berghain/Ostgut Ton juggernaut, he’s one of the sound’s premier-league figures, regarded with an awe-struck fervor by those with an emotional investment in this kind of music. They’d expect a little bit more than simple steamrollers, and Klockworks 20 pays off in that regard as well—on most of these tracks, the momentum is leavened by nuance and inventiveness in ways that look beyond the dance floor, and at their best attain a subtle, hypnotic dignity.
Klock’s own “Twenty” serves as a template for much of the set’s 20 tracks (he’s really got a thing for that particular number). A series of pulsing tones set the tempo, while simple, flowing bass delineates the substratum, both courtesy of a Korg MS-20. A patiently evolving percussion pattern is fleshed out with dub effects, and a short keyboard riff towards the end serves as a kind of punctuation mark. It’s spartan and clean, but also complete—it’s the kind of track that’s both full of feeling and would surely be effective over a big sound system.
Some of Klockwork 20’s numbers take a more minimalistic tack to reach a similar destination: Adam Craft’s “Aphite 49,” for instance, lashes a simple rhythm to a gurgling 303 bassline, a syncopated signal and occasional handclaps boosting its forward thrust. Others are slightly fuller: Steve Rachmad, under his Sterac alias, lays a procession of acidic bleeps in a choir of celestial synths. And a few just flat-out go for it: “Late Night Mistress” from Dax J (like Craft, a Klockworks newcomer) weds its sawtooth throb to a reverberating clang and rapid-fire hi-hats to galloping effect.
Amid all this robust momentum, there are a handful of outlier tracks, songs that toy with the pace or mood—and these cuts hit the mark as well. “Sombre Tones,” a gossamer beauty from the late, great Marcus “Trevino” Kaye (who also produced drum ’n’ bass as Marcus Intalex), underlays the sighing synths of its title to skittering percussion and reverberating bell for a fittingly melancholy tune. Benny Rodrigues, here working under his Rod alias, contributes the compilation's sole ambient cut, “Extra,” its solemn melody and spacious, cathedral-esque aura imbuing the with a spiritual feel that hovers between sorrow and uplift. Like the Trevino cut, it’s a placid respite in a collection that’s more concerned with drive and intensity—but you’ll find many such moments of transcendence throughout Klockworks 20, as long as you listen closely.
01. Etapp Kyle "Essay"
02. Jon Hester "Let's Go"
03. Adam Craft "Aphite 49"
04. Sterac "Lately"
05. Ben Klock "Twenty"
06. DVS1 "In The Middle"
07. Trevino "Sombre Tones"
08. Newa "Dance Of The Warrior"
09. Dax J "Late Night Mistress"
10. ROD "Extra"
11. Sterac "Scientific Methods"
12. Troy "Flux"
13. Heiko Laux "Dark Fader"
14. Jay Clarke "Perdita"
15. Ritzi Lee -"Substract"
16. Reus "Acid Modo"
17. High Position "Cops"
18. Yoikol "Dense"
19. Adam Craft "Pacelane"
20. Vincent "How I Feel"
Klockworks 20 is scheduled for September 25 release.