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V/A - Panorama Bar 01

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Artist: V/A

Album: Panorama Bar 01

Label: Ostgut Tonträger

Review date: Oct. 31, 2006

For those unfamiliar, Panorama Bar is the smaller upstairs dancefloor at the infamous nightclub Berghain, located in the Friedrichshain district of East Berlin. The music on offer: minimal house, the sound that currently rules that city. Minimal producers and DJs from around the world have flocked to Berlin recently, drawn by the city’s cheap cost of living, its 24-hour party culture, and most of all its devotion to their genre. Of the many nightspots there caning minimal house week in and week out, none are more closely associated with it than Berghain and Panorama Bar. Accordingly, the owners have recently embarked on parallel series of mix CDs to celebrate their clubs and its sound. The first to appear was Andre Galluzzi's fine Berghain 01, and now we have Panorama Bar's inaugural entry courtesy of its resident DJ, Cassy Britton.

Minimal house is a tricky proposition. Even by the standards of electronic music, the genre is notoriously short on hooks: an extended melody is not common, let alone a full song. Instead, minimal's appeal lies in the tested dub processes of reduction and repetition: most tracks are built on small phrases, slowly shifting rhythms, and the use of delay and other fx. At its best, it can be intensely psychedelic: deep, pulsating and hypnotic, with an ever-changing latticework of percussion bouncing off the 4/4 kick. But its sparseness and drugginess can work against it as well: for every great production or mix there are many more that just dazedly meander along to nowhere. It's a thin line between good and bad, and that's coming from a fan. The DJ needs an especially sure and subtle touch to keep things exciting.

As one would expect from Panorama Bar’s resident, Cassy proves up to the task, moving confidently between recent releases, older tracks and complementary productions from other genres. She sets the tone with a pair of curveballs that work wonderfully to draw the listener in: first up is Shackleton's deeep dubstep production "Blood On My Hands," followed by the loose and limber Detroit house track "Believe" by Dwayne Jensen. The comparatively open mood at the outset gives way to an introspective middle segment featuring a stretch of Basic Channel-type dub techno tracks. Cassy cranks it up a few notches in the second half, pushing the mix to its peak at the entrance of Redshape's "Pink Dust." Immediately following is her own stunning production "Toyah," whose echoing voices and wormhole bass propel the affair to outer space before a few warmer numbers wrap it up. The mix concludes with DJ Abstract's "Touch," a second dubstep track that bookends the set and serves as a tacit nod to minimal’s debt to the dub tradition.

Cassy keeps it bumping and varied throughout, maintaining a lively pace and never letting the set fall down a K-hole. In fact, if there is one objection to make about Panorama Bar 01, it's that the mixing is perhaps too aggressive. Cassy whips through 24 tunes in less than 75 minutes, and while the selections and transitions are all unimpeachable, each track gets only a few minutes to play out before it's right on to the next. Despite its many virtues, I can’t help feeling that this mix still represents a missed opportunity: a slightly less ambitious tracklist might have developed a deeper and even more cohesive mood. A small complaint for what remains a distinctive and satisfying mix.

By Greg Ferguson

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