Various Artists, ‘Camping’ (BPitch Control)
In the early 1990s, post-wall Berlin discovered its love for techno deep in the Cold War rubble. Newly energized by liberation and unity, the city became a hot spot for activist artists and DJs. Minimal techno/ breaks goddess Ellen Allien felt its pull, teaching herself to make beats in the basement of a communal squat and, in 1999, founding the label BPitch Control. Propelled by a demiurgic musical vision and an opposition to the kudzu-like commercialism that was choking techno’s creativity during the rave boom, she became an underground icon, a Kraftwerkian Ian MacKaye, releasing some of the best dance music in Europe.
BPitch’s five-year anniversary blowout, Camping, covers a half-decade of electronic music’s ebb and flow–IDM, glitch, microhouse, etc.–but it’s really a testament to Allien’s open ear. Even riding the fickle waves of dance trends, most of these songs have aged less in five years than Melissa Rivers. The 2001 stuff revels in poppy techhouse (Smash TV’s “What About Me”) and Fritz Lang electro (Allien’s “Stadtkind”), while Sylvie Marks & Hal 9000 indulge 2004’s hybrid fetish, conjoining a country & western cow-pie guitar with a sensuous score worthy of a Brigitte Bardot (or Chloë Sevigny) night dans gai Paree.
As in Allien’s own tunes, the BPitch catalog banks on inventive beats, but melody is its superglue. Thus, the squall of woofers and short circuits gets softened by vocalists like Fritz Kalkgrenner, Timtim, and Sylvie Marks, singing in ginger-sweet whispers as if crossfading between disco diva Donna Summer and Ben Gibbard. It’s a dynamic mix of weird pop and outre beats that imagines better dancing through hooks–wooing the techno-tepid and sending brainy dance-music lovers into palpitations, or dissertations, as the case may be.