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Compilation of the Month: Various Artists ‘Tresor 30’

Techno icons meet next gen electronic innovators on Berlin club/label Tresor’s superb 52-track 30th anniversary compilation

Tresor was born out of a treasure-filled chaos. In the early '90s, club co-founder Dimtri Hegemann began the search for a new venue after being forced to close UFO, Berlin’s first acid house venue. The timing was perfect for cultural activists looking to spread east, what with the wall having fallen the year before and the GDR still in the throes of an existential crisis. West Berlin was saturated for space, but much of the Berlin neighbourhood of Mitte resembled a no-man’s land. Local authority figures, uncertain of their future, were open to under the table trading.

Tresor opened its hallowed doors in March 1991 and, rumour has it, the air was so poor at the time that some DJs would bring oxygen tanks along to their sets. But down in that cavernous, sweltering space, with its damp floor and heady air, east and west Berliners communed, many for the first time, with techno as their unifying sound. Tresor Records followed in October that same year, releasing the work of Underground Resistance, Blake Baxter and other first wave Detroit artists. By 1993, the Berlin-Detroit connection was official: Tresor was the international go-to hub for forward-thinking techno.

The first thing to note is that you don’t have to be an avid techno raver to enjoy this compilation. At 52 tracks, ‘Tresor 30’ lends itself to different ways of listening. You can take a regional, generational or sub-genre approach. Want to get a sense of Detroit’s key, early players? Check out UR’s epic ‘The Final Frontier’, as reimagined by Nomadico, or let the brooding bounce in Jeff Mills’ ‘Late Night’ wash over you.

If you’re more keen on the Motor City’s second wave, then try out Juan Atkins’ jazz-inspired ‘I Love You’, the late K-Hand’s jacking ‘Boiler’, or the rich lull of Terrence Dixon’s ‘The Way I See It’. For those who lean towards the ambient, KMRU’s plaintive ‘neutral points’ and Verraco’s unearthly ‘Umbral de dolor’ are worth repeat listens, as is the slow, hypnotic chug on Moritz von Oswald’s ‘Segment’.

But the most exciting parts of the compilation lie with the younger generation. From Huey Mnemonic’s journeying ‘Transmutations’ and Nene H’s thumping three-part act ‘Only Words Break Silence’, to Yazzus’ breakneck ‘Turn Of Speed’, things sound as varied and potent as ever. ‘Tresor 30’ does well to dedicate a large chunk of the compilation to these new artists, who carry much of the spirit of the label’s early works but signal a clear sonic departure. Russell E.L. Butler’s ‘James Stinson On A Beach In The Mid-Atlantic’ nods to the aquatic-funk motifs of Drexciya, but its revving bass and stolid kick-drum could easily feature in a footwork track. AFRODEUTSCHE offers a meditative soporific in ‘CAN’T STOP’, a modern-day techno call to prayer of sorts, with strings that warp at a moment’s notice.

Across the 52 tracks, it’s clear that the future remains key to the club’s and label’s ethos. Right now, you’d be hard pushed to find a better overview of what techno was, is and will be than ‘Tresor 30’. 

Want more? Read Holly Dicker's recent deep dive into the evolution of Tresor as it celebrates its 30th anniversary here

Ria Hylton is DJ Mag's staff writer. You can follow them on Twitter @ria_hylton