VA: Fünf
Ostgut Ton

With respect to surface, Ostgut Ton is more concrete than cashmere, and, in terms of temperature, the label's less summer heatstroke and more icy winter chill. As such, the rather left-field project Fünf is a perfect fit for the Berlin label. At first glance, it appears to be a straightforward compilation showcasing the label's roster; closer inspection reveals that the Berlin-based producer Emika has overseen a project whereby Ostgut Ton artists (as well as club associates like Substance, Dinky, Cassy, and Ryan Elliott) have created tracks using a library of field recordings she compiled over a two-month period within the Berlin clubs Berghain and Panorama Bar. Questioning the ways by which the spaces themselves might have influenced the DJs working within them, she collected four gigabytes of sounds from sources such as strobe lights, cooling rooms used for storing liquor, the ventilation systems in those rooms, sounds of bottles rattling against each other, and so on. Marking the label's five-year anniversary, Fünf documents in oft-fascinating manner the myriad ways by which the label's artists responded to the challenge Emika presented to them, though it should be noted that they weren't given restrictions on how to create their tracks and so not all of the sounds included on the release originated from those she provided.

The pieces inhabit differing spots along the spectrum with some sounding like pure (if rhythm-focused) exercises in musique concrète (Emika's “Cooling Room,” Fiedel's hammering “Doors to Manual”) and others closer to thumping techno tracks one would hear in the Berlin clubs. Some artists use the library to simulate bass and drum sounds they normally would produce using software, while others craft metronomic workouts of resolutely machine-like design in keeping with the industrial character of the pool of sounds Emika provided. Some tracks, like Barker & Baumecker's “Drin,” straddle a middle ground between musique concrete and rollicking acid-techno. ON disc one, Prosumer powers “Daybreak” with hard-grooving, low-end rumble and sweetens it further with the pitter-patter of disco hi-hats and embellishes it with atmospheric creaks; Substance's “Gestalts” gets its furiously rocking groove on, no matter what sounds were used to produce it; and Ryan Elliott's “Abatis” peppers its bouncy bass shuffle with clanks, chain rattles, and creaks. Other highlights include Shed's “Boom Room,” whose jacking thump, funky chords, and throbbing kick drum refuse to be ignored, and Len Faki's “Kraft Und Licht,” which closes out the first disc on a dramatic, head-spinning tip. While Marcel Dettmann opts for gloomy ambient soundsculpting and industrial emissions on disc one (“Shelter”), he rolls out a pile-driving slab of bass rumble and rolling beats (“Scourer”) on the second.

In some tracks the clatter and noise of Emika's samples are clearly audible (SCB's “Down Moment”), while in others the sounds supplemental to the library are clearly heard. The droll female voice sample strutting through Dinky's funky “Twelve To Four,” for example, obviously didn't come from the library, nor did the voice sample gliding through Cassy's “Never Give Up On a Mood Swing,” while Murat Tepeli's laid-back “Holdon” likewise gets a huge boost from the sultry vocal presence of Elif Biçer. Though it's long, Fünf generally makes good on its approximately 160-minute running time, the inclusion of the meandering “Start Up” by Nodge notwithstanding.

December 2010