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Atlantic Waves 01sep09: Len Faki

ostgutcd08Len Faki exploded into my earspace with his masterful Rainbow Delta / Mekong Delta EP, the fourth release on Ostgut Tonträger and without a doubt the most exciting and perfectly wrought piece of “big” techno that came out in 2007. Both tracks really had something special about them: They were massive and brutal, but the detailing and care in the sound design and the exciting drum programming announced that a distinctive voice had unmistakably arrived, along with the label releasing it.

I’ve been waiting for Faki to follow through with something the equal of that release, but nonetheless I was excited to hear that he was finally being given his shot at compiling a mix for Ostgut—no small task after definitive mixes from Cassy and Marcel Dettmann. What, I wondered, was Faki going to do with such an incomparable platform? Would we witness something as fresh as “Rainbow Delta”? The answer is an unfortunate but emphatic no.

Faki opens with John Beltran’s “Vienna,” which is a bit twee, but kinda nice. The surprise makes you think that Faki’s about to throw a curve ball, but then we move into a sequence of typically “ominous” openers, first Edit Select’s “Bauer,” then Roman Lindau’s “Raumgestaltung.” You’ve had enough bars to adjust your expectations (“okay, mainroom techno, okay…”) when Faki shifts gears—into fourth, straight away, with Chris Leibing and Speedy J’s “Magnet Express.” Faki holds it in fourth and revs it a bit with the next track (good old “The World Is Yours” by Gez Varley), then he really, really gives it the berries. By track nine (JP Montesino’s “Viaje Numero Uno”) everything’s gone absolutely crazy apeshit bonkers. The sirens, when they come—yes, there really are sirens—are so incredibly O.T.T. the effect is emphatically camp.

But by track twelve, the requisite Radio Slave tool “Neverending…,” we’ve already peaked, and now the mix begins to lose intensity and tread water. But when you decide to bang it out before the halfway mark, where do you expect to be able to go from there? Well, if you’re Faki, you begin to move into house, by way of Tony Lionni’s “Found a Place.” It’s a mix exclusive, the disc highlight and sounds outstanding by contrast, but by this stage I’m not sure a nicely sound-designed track carried along by a stereotypical house piano melody is going to be enough to save the mix.

Then it gets bad: Faki drops “The Man with the Red Face,” and suddenly, you’re back in 1999 again. I loved this track the first time round, but in this context the selection seems forced. Desperate. Dated. Then, after seven minutes of honking sax, it gets worse: Faki goes “even further,” with Sydenham and Ferrer’s “Timbuktu,” a track that was already beginning to bruise when it was being caned four years back. This is what is so enigmatic and perplexing about track selection (and exquisite when someone really nails it): Out of a virtually infinite possibility of combinations, you chose this… followed by this?

Berghain 03 has a late ’90s feel about it: The mixing, the programming, the sense of “shifting gears,” hitting peaks, banging it out (to the point of caricature), then ending with some stale, sentimental melodic tracks. The net result is somewhere between Joey Beltram’s The Sound of 2 AM and—for the hard parts in the middle—the “Noche” mix from Sven Väth’s Sound of the Second Season, a compilation which already sounded like a remnant of the 20th century when it was released eight years ago.

Ironically, the mix’s bare-chested obviousness actually makes it deeply puzzling in the final analysis, because in a more fundamental way, it’s really difficult to understand what Faki was thinking when he put together this mix on Ostgut in 2009. The faithful stereotypes are here, the shopworn formulas are intact, but behind them Faki is fumbling, muddling through track after track of high-impact boom boom. Maybe, in the context of the main floor of Berghain at 8 AM on a Sunday morning, all this makes deep, profound sense. But on CD, I just don’t get it. It’s crazy that, in a media landscape in which people produce amazing podcasts day after day, week after week, a published mix this dated is seen as fit to release on what is arguably Europe’s premier techno label. Do you really want to hear this again? Maybe unreconstructed, balls-out, shirts off, muscle Mary main room techno (that gets all weepy toward the end) is your thing. Personally? Heard it before, wasn’t impressed the first time round, don’t care to hear it again. (Peter Chambers, Resident Advisor)

81 Atlantic Waves 01sep09

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