Earplug to the Underground: Ben Klock

Fringe music is an elusive beast, indeed. Whereas the points of slick tales of love and loss are usually pretty obvious, the undercurrents of the avant-garde are infinitely harder to navigate. Enter your intrepid guide: Earplug. In this bi-monthly series, Flavorwire’s sister publication — home to several experimental, indie, and techno experts — will separate the hidden gems from the record bin rejects, helping the adventurous among us pluck new albums from the outer edges.

After the jump, a review of the bleepy,  heart-in-mouth pulse of Ben Klock’s One by minimal master Philip Sherburne.

Ben Klock – One
Yes, Ostgut Ton, the in-house label of Berlin’s sister clubs Berghain and Panorama Bar, is steadfast in its techno agenda. Since the label’s launch in 2006, much of Ostgut’s output—across singles, mixes and artist albums from the likes of Marcel Dettmann, Len Faki and Shed—has hewed to a homegrown sound fusing hard techno with touches of early house at its most skeletal, all bathed in the steely reverb appropriate for a massive ex-factory like Berghain. Ben Klock has been responsible for much of the label’s most minimal fare, both solo and alongside Dettmann. But with his debut album, One, he shows just how malleable the Ostgut sound can be.

The 13-track album is built around a driving core—bleepy, minimalist tracks with a heart-in-mouth pulse and the patina of brushed sheet metal—but Klock stretches out to encompass ambient interludes (“Init One”), haunting vocal house (“OK,” featuring Elif Bicer), and even an unexpected fusion of Basic Channel atmospherics and dubstep cadences (“Gold Rush”).

These tracks may have been concocted in the shadows of a sweat-slicked industrial monolith, but they can be surprisingly warm, even tender. “Goodly Sin” (again featuring Bicer) recalls the bluesy, feel-good melancholia of Matthew Herbert’s Around the House; “OK” puts a wraithlike spin on Moodymann’s slow, grinding machine soul. “Check for Pulse” and “Grip” work like rock tumblers, setting odd polyrhythms in motion and smoothing edges with every rotation. Even at his heaviest, as on the acidic “Check for Pulse,” Klock’s tracks seem to have been sanded to a dull shine. For all the music’s warmth, there’s also a numbness here—a twinge of something nameless and unsettling. Klock’s ground-down remnants of ’90s techno, with their indistinct details and shadowy depths, suggest a profound sense of loss. Ironically, that’s what keeps pulling you back to the music, as though out of a certainty that you’ll find it lurking there, whatever “it” is.

– Philip Sherburne