Techno comes in all shapes and sizes, and few recent outfits embody that truth more obviously than Berlin’s Barker & Baumecker. One operates as Barker/Voltek and the other as nd_baumecker. Both solo projects exhibit unconventional takes on Techno inflected by the influence of other genres, from Glitch to Dubstep to Ambient and beyond. Judging from their output so far on Ostgut Ton, one gets the idea that these fellows know a lot about electronic music; their label debut “Candyflip” was a 9-minute opus spelled out in broken beats and trancelike tones, the kind of track that seems to reference a million different things in one coherent, confident statement.
It should come as no surprise, then, that their debut album together is a many-sided prism reflecting different iterations of Techno from all angles. Titled “Transsektoral”, the album name refers to the duo’s ambition to travel across the entire spectrum of electronic music. That’s what they do on the LP, bridging a seemingly impossible gap between the dubby blobs of ambient opener “Sektor” to the effervescent bubbling of the epic closer “Spur,” like happy hardcore unravelled and disassembled into a soothing afterword worthy of someone like Dntel.
What happens in between is nothing short of alchemy, or some other lost art, traversing all sorts of terrain without ever losing the plot. It’s held together in part by the duo’s keen grasp of sound design—they always work together in person, on an expansive set of hardware—so no matter what tunnel they’re travelling down head-first, the sounds are always pristine, filled with unexpected details like hi-hats shoved into corners where you’d never expect them to fit.
These are machinistic creations that swell with organic respiration and lush life, despite their artificial origins. The album jumps from garage-leaning bouncy house with “No Body” to exuberant tonnes-heavy off-kilter house (“Buttcracker”) where bubbles of caustic acid send the track into overdrive—yet none of these shifts quite feel like the gigantic stylistic leaps they represent. Instead, they’re smoothed out into something altogether pleasant and listenable, the album itself sharing each track’s own gentle sense of development and build-up.
That’s largely due to careful sequencing: for every stretch of twitchy funk like “Schlang Bang”—where hi-hats and snares swim against a sea of topsy-turvy basslines like in difficult backstrokes—or the pumping liquid grooves of “Trans_it,” there are brief but texturally rich interludes like the sleepy-eyed “Tranq,” which rumbles reassuringly below a palette of twinkling synths. The album has an ebb-and-flow that makes its eccentricities enjoyable rather than obnoxious. And eccentric it is, particularly on mid-album highlight “Crows” (reworked for the single “A Murder of Crows” earlier this year) where what sounds like a blaring horn fanfare lights the dark passage of rustling snares - a startlingly unexpected turn that quickly becomes natural.
By the time we get to the end of the album, the simmer becomes nearly unbearable and finally boils over with the awe-inspiring “Silo,” the track that betrays the duo’s Berghain heritage (Barker runs the club’s Leisure System night, Baumecker is a booker for the club and long serving resident DJ there), where hissing hats get lost in a wringer of ropy vicegrip basslines and violent whiplash kick drums. It’s almost the album’s one concession to conventionality. Until you listen closer and notice that no element sounds untreated, that everything sounds elastic and oddly magnetic like the beat is violently snapping into place with each hit. It’s a perfect distillation of the overall aesthetic that Barker & Baumecker reveal with “Transsektoral” —it makes perfect sense in execution, but put it on paper and it’s nearly incomprehensible, not to mention sprawling. It’s enough to make you wonder what kind of magic they did to put it together in the first place.