Both the names up there next to the two prowling, glassy-eyed wolves are longtime fixtures in Berlin techno’s inner circle. It might be enough just to step behind the decks at Berghain to establish you have all the cred and connections one might ever need within the city’s thriving dance community, but Sam Barker (aka Voltek) and Andreas Baumecker are just as active behind the scene–co-opting club events and running record labels–as they are in it. The two exude a passionate and tireless work ethic that translates to their first full-length together as Barker & Baumecker, Transsektoral, after a pair of releases on the Berghain-affiliated Ostgut Ton.
Transsektoral collects eleven tracks, spanning an exhaustively wide breadth of sounds and picking from almost every corner of Berlin techno and then some. From dub to glitch, from minimal introversion to widescreen transcendence. There’s even a touch of left-field weirdness and UK garage bubbling beneath the duo’s barbed, brass-knuckled rhythms. Barker & Baumecker get a lot of milage out of stretching a significant distance between the foreground and background of each track, then using the space to build and deconstruct ever-morphing structures, discarding one tangent before picking up on another. The textures here are decidedly dark but airy. Caffeinated drones whistle and moan around ricocheting dub chords, feathered synth melodies, and thick supple bass grooves while some of the percussion sounds like the duo banging away on rusty pipes. Ultimately, though, Transsektoral is aimed at the dance floor. It offers different moods and colors, but most of its tracks have a specific purpose in mind.
“Sektor” drowns itself with a stream of ambient dub chords before the album kicks things off with “Trafo.” The cut positions itself around a drone that sounds like a cello caught in a megaphone before its slippery, spit-flecked percussion seems to squeak in a rapid fire pattern around a bitcrushed nucleus while digital constellations set up shop before crumbling again. The groove arrives somewhere near the track’s middle, chipper little dub plucks bouncing around a quaking tumble dry. “Shlang Bang” follows it up with some predatory Berghain bliss. It’s stretched and combed synth patterns jump off the morphine drip bass groove, interrupting with little rotating-mobile climaxes as the chunky beat and clanging polyrhythms give way. “No Body” sounds like a more expansive and minimal take on current trends in house and garage, beautiful new age synth arpeggios layered like cloud formations above a staggered rhythm and vocal centerpiece. And “Trans_It” is a booming, post-Detroit static electricity-soaked gallop, lightning forked synths arcing around a rise of translucent textures as a welterweight kick drum stomps vertically beneath.
Closer “Spur” feels like the track the whole of Transsektoral prior has been building toward. It opens with a chorus of tuneless percussive synth arpeggios before slowly introducing a sequence of overlapping upward and pastoral melody. The synths build like an extensive tangle of branches before a monolithic synth wash blooms over the whole thing like a pink dawn in the album’s one real climactic moment. Transsektoral is a stubbornly consistent, diverse record from two producers assured enough to make an album that plays like they’d be content if they were only two to ever hear it. As such, it’s one of the most back-to-front solid and uncompromising Berlin techno full-lengths this year.
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