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Jonas Bering - Sketches for the Next Season

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Artist: Jonas Bering

Album: Sketches for the Next Season

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Apr. 26, 2004

Jonas Bering’s second album, Sketches for the Next Season, slips right through me.

Whether it’s because its context is so absolutely overdetermined - Kompakt, German minimal techno, dub undertow - or because there’s simply such a deluge of the stuff at the moment, Bering’s album is stuck in the wings, another collection of polite, pleasant, faintly mannered electronic music from one of the network’s most reliable outposts. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to this music over the past few years, and it never quite feels like I reach total ‘saturation point’, but there are decisive moments where certain avenues seem almost inexplicably played out, and when others begin to rise, to bubble with energy. Witness the sudden death of the Chain Reaction heroin-house trope, the slow fade-out of dub elements; but also, conversely, the increasing pop-ification of the Kompakt crew, the way their music started reaching for more obvious, pleasure-intensive signs. That’s no put-down: this is precisely what’s been so invigorating about listening to the German minimal techno fall-out - the way it maintains some sense of allegiance to the corps, while fucking with the template so thoroughly yet seductively that you’d never notice the violence done to the genre for the fizzing texturality of Kompakt’s pop smarts, the sheer alien configuration of the shuffle rhythm, or the gnarled stomp of the Speicher series. These days, Kompakt is at its most potent when it lets its variant avenues ruffle each other’s feathers in an almost non-consensual manner.

Herein lies Bering’s problem: his music is too one-dimensional. True, it can sometimes be hard to deny the pleasures of his music. Bering can be elegant and lithe, as on the beautiful “Wissant”, where dub fades to grey and then finds itself spinning on a golden axis, or he can be impressively crotchety, as on the closing “Out to Out”’s blaring noise spurts. There’s a locomotive, motorik propulsion and pulsation to Bering’s compositions which hooks trace elements of dub (the original space music) to the clean lines of post-Autobahn techno rigidity (sound for car fetishists, the motor-music of the new auto-cracy.) The pieces are texturally well-wrought and Bering’s touch can be feather-light yet decisive, as he often lets a subtle turn and twist help to navigate a structure that, from external observation, appears as a (n)ever-changing same.

So it’s signature sound, rendered classically. Which is all well and good - this is Kompakt music of an instantly definable character. It’s just that, it doesn’t seem to be quite enough. The low-maintenance, slip-stream step of Bering’s music seems serviceable at best, and when it does reach a few giddy heights, it just serves to remind you how much giddier things could/should be still. Bering is a good producer, but he needs to loosen his belt.

By Jon Dale

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