Following Joy Orbison, Lena Willikens steps up to curate the fifth edition of the Dekmantel Selectors compilation series. An excellent choice, as Willikens is well-known for spinning some obscure – and downright weird – gems throughout her sets. Her selection for Dekmantel typifies this trait, making for the most leftfield assortment in their series to date.
Willikens started out as a doorwoman at Tolouse Low Trax’s Salon Des Amateurs club in Düsseldorf, eventually taking up a residency there. Home to Kraftwerk and DAF, the city boasts an important role in music history, alongside neighbouring Cologne – the source of Kompakt’s poppy-minimal voice. Now a new hybrid has emerged from both places: A very slow, organic sound that is equal parts peculiar and hypnotic.
Some tracks, like opener “Little Lines” by JASSS (who released her widely acclaimed debut album Weightless last year) embrace this laidback tempo, they twist and morph with eerie vocals and are completely out of it – a term synonymous with almost all twelve tracks. “Morning Star (Dubmix)” by Sandoz for example is out of it in its own cosmic-disco, 70s way – careless and glittery.
The thick middle-section of the compilation drags you into a dense darkness. Not sad or depressing – but definitely the dark side. It’s fun over here – seduction lurks in every corner, sin stares from all sides. “Oil” by French producer Le Matin is the archetype of this junction, with acid stabs providing a red-light club vibe, and a confused voice declaring “I love oil”. With each track the gloom grows more haunted, brushing softly against insanity (particularly in “Deep Space”, a 1994 release from an unknown German producer). Borusiade brings this discomfort to its intense, evil peak, with a jam that’s somehow slicker than the rest.
Others paradoxically transcend the murk and sluggishness. “Voice Of Command” (in a re-edit by Leeds-based producer Chekov) gains traction with every saturated beat, until its relentless war-cry “I want volunteers!” builds euphoric momentum. Closing track, “Tribal Dose”, is also of this nature: consisting almost entirely of rhythmic textures and drums, it radiates tribal rawness and an energetic rave feel.
Although Willikens’ assortment can get discomforting amid the darkness – in the sense that it becomes too hard to process – it’s still an expertly curated and very coherent selection. A testament to Willikens’ curatorial skill and unique sound signature.