Marcel Dettmann – Fear Of Programming
In the decade since his last solo LP, Marcel Dettman has solidified his status as an icon in underground techno. His position as Berghain resident and work with legendary labels such as Ostgut Ton and his own MDR and Bad Manners has made him one of the most influential artists in contemporary techno today. But it was Dettmann’s shift in focus from album making to iconic DJ mixes and compilations, and largely exploratory EPs, that gave him the space to map the full breadth of his creativity, touching on styles beyond techno, from minimal house to ambient adjacent. His new LP Fear Of Programming reflects this. Arriving on Dekmantel, the album is a stylistically diverse reflection of Dettmann’s journey up until this point.
In making Fear Of Programming, Dettmann largely relied on instinct. Entering the process without a rigid concept in mind or particular stylistic goal, he allowed his work in the studio to unfold organically. It’s the reason why amorphous compositions sans-beat like Transport sit alongside the pulsating acid techno of Renewal Theory on the track list, or how tracks like Picture 2020 which straddle both of these sides exist. The approach makes Fear Of Programming quite an immediate listen; it’s rooted in the present moment, never seeking to look too far ahead of itself or back at what’s come just before. You jump from the undulating, muddied arpeggios of Picture 2020 straight into the seemingly visceral industrial static loop of Selective Dissolution without much thought. Similarly, you are dropped from the louche vapourware ambience of Reverse Dreaming into the rubberised club focussed pistons of x12, with each playing out like a contrasting, self-contained vignette of Dettmann’s imagination.
While he’s best known for his abilities to craft propulsive techno, Dettmann is arguably a far more dextrous and exciting sound designer. The soundscape-like pieces on Fear Of Programming are some of its most interesting, such as the rapid-fire synth stabs and industrial undertones of Pxls, which sounds like something SOPHIE might have made if she were headlining Berghain. The album’s title track, and ultimately its conclusion, is a sci-fi opus of looping arpeggios that for all its sparseness, ping-pongs with an electric urgency that manages to feel more energetic than any of the percussion driven techno elsewhere on the album. Though Dettmann insists there is no ‘overarching concept’ to the album, it’s hard not to miss the sort of laser sharp darkwave tonality of the project as a whole. From the throbbing modular synths of (Batteries Not Included) to the analog bass of Suffice To Predict, there’s a distinct 80’s edge to Fear Of Programming that makes it feel at times menacing and austere, but also incredibly stylish.
While Fear Of Programming is by no means Dettmann’s strongest work, the collection speaks toward his unique point of view as a ‘techno’ artist. Dettmann’s interest in and instinct for minimal, amorphous electronica is likely a sign of things to come from him; there’s a distinct sense of vision and passion that he injects into these pieces which hint at the creative direction he’s likely steering himself toward. As one of the first pit stops on this journey, Fear Of Programming is likely to become an essential turning point in Dettmann’s discography, signifying the moment he begins following his instincts.
Listen to Pxls from Fear Of Programming below.
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