As one of the resident DJs at Berlin’s infamous Berghain, Ben Klock should know a thing or two about endurance and pacing. That he’s cultivated a relative silence around his own productions (a child’s clutch of singles over a number of years) makes sense in the current socio-economic climate, but it also speaks of canny operation – with less Klock on the dial, his no-nonsense minimal techno records often breathe a little deeper, as though by limiting his output, he’s somehow maximized the potential in these coal-black and ash-grey tracks.
But that romance stops here, as Klock’s debut, One, is a typically flawed, imperfect techno album. You’re with Klock for the first half hour or so, which means the listener’s battle is not entirely waged in vain – the opening “Coney Island” is a beautifully baleful slice of martial techno, “Check For Pulse” and “Underneath” have a gorgeously hazy indistinct-ness about them that has them floating past your ears on their first turn, only to punch you in the gut when they re-appear at high volume. “Gloaming” starts with Radiophonic Workshop electronica before a faded, shop-worn rhythm kicks out alongside blurred yet diaphanous ripples of synth-spray.
From here, things take a turn for the lesser. Klock’s admiration for dubstep is understandable, but his own attempts at weaving the genre’s tropes into his own lexicon are fumbled at best, failed at worst; some other tracks in the second half of the record are slight, with both their and your attention spans wavering within a few minutes. By the closing “Thirteen Rounds,” you’re so removed from the rigorous splendor of “Coney Island” you begin to wonder whether Klock’s asleep at the desk.
Ultimately, I suspect One is yet another case of ‘great singles, compromised album’ from the techno ferment. This idea is regularly rehearsed by dance music critics who value functionality over the ‘serious artistic statement,’ which given the context is an entirely fair proposition, and there’s certainly little other explanation for an artist with Klock’s discography of 12"s producing such a patchy debut. Being a victim of one’s own curiosity is a puzzling fate – but I guess there’s (admittedly cold) comfort in Klock knowing he’s far from alone there.