Marcel Fengler is a resident DJ at Berghain, the Berlin club that has come to embody 21st century techno, and Fokus is his debut album for the club's in-house label Ostgut Ton -- but those expecting a monolithic platter of the label's usual "uncompromising" techno may be disappointed, at least at first. This is a much lighter, warmer, more inviting album than we usually get from the label; yes, there is techno here, but the influence of minimal, house, ambient, dub, and even acid are all apparent. It starts with rumbling sub-bass and lush swells of synthetic, angelic choral vocals on "Break Through" before deep drones and exotic vocal samples are held over a crispy broken beat on "Mayria." No techno influence is apparent at all until the third track, "The Stampede," which hews closely to the minimal, Teutonic Berghain template while managing to incorporate a cascade of acid bleeps that give it a somewhat retro feel. "King of Psi" pulls off much the same trick, marrying loud, pulverizing industrial claps to a coruscating synth line. The bouncy, housey bassline, glistening key motifs, and crackling percussion of "Trespass" and "Jaz" bring to mind the work of John Tejada, while a sinuous bass pulse winds through "Sky Pushing," layered with shuffling percussion, tinkling chimes, and bells. "Distant Episode" is a spacey, laid-back and hypnotic interlude, and the album's last few tracks recall the heyday of early-'90s IDM, ending with the lush ambient techno shimmer of "Liquid Torso." There are no big-room floorfillers on this album -- it's intended to be taken as a whole, its expert sequencing really taking the listener on a journey, building gradually to incorporate a plethora of different electronic music styles and genres. Fengler has transcended Ostgut's sometimes self-imposed limitations to deliver one of the most enjoyable electronic music albums of the year.
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AllMusic Review by John D. Buchanan