Dominik Eulberg - "Tanz Der Gluehwuermchen" (Diorama)
Sometimes, the concept in a concept album is a red herring. By the time one finishes listening to a piece of music through its own lens, there’s that much less energy left over to listen to it sensuously. So, often a leap of faith is involved. But with an album like Diorama, the latest album from German DJ and producer Dominik Eulberg, the music keeps the listener too involved to spin add their own commentary. It may take a few tracks for Eulberg’s personality to emerge, but Diorama quickly becomes a generous techno album.
The best-known fact about Eulberg is that he sometimes works as a park ranger. Press release or not, this is enough to establish his new album, Diorama, as a nature lover’s techno album. There’s an argument to be made about nature’s place in electronic music, but Diorama is a low-key affair and doesn’t belong in it. Whatever Eulberg’s intentions were while making this album, the music is only concerned with being companionable. Listen hard enough and you would certainly find a field recording or some other artifact or symbol of the natural world, but Diorama‘s best moments arise unexpectedly, without Eulberg spelling it out. Despite the title, the songs aren’t shoebox recreations of hikes, nor are they cutesy portraits of the creatures mentioned in song titles like “Tanz Der Glühwürmchen” (“Dance of the Glowworms”) and “Die 3 Millionen Musketiere” (“The 3 Million Musketeers”). Diorama is considerably better at enhancing the experiences you have while listening than being the object of undivided attention. (I had a great experience on an ugly bridge, for example, when the tinkling “H2O” started soaking up the colors cast by the setting sun, growing ever more sparkly.)
Which is another way of describing this as a “best case scenario” drug record — it really takes off when you’re seeing amazing regular things like banana slugs and polygon suns. It’s a flawed record, but finding the cracks would only be satisfying if the music wasn’t so appealing. In that sense, Eulberg is on a Four Tet tip. Both borrow from dance music without scaling down their emotional scope. Both are probably held at a certain distance by purists for being insufficiently bleak. Indeed, there are no “fire of the mind” experiences on Diorama; it’s not difficult, and it will be enough for some to know that and avoid this. On the other hand, making art that nourishes, that chooses to focus listeners on something other than itself, must be very difficult.