In celebration of the club and label's 25th anniversary, Surgeon, Detroit Techno Militia, and more highlight some of the German institution's best moments.
Few names are as revered in the world of techno as Tresor, the legendary Berlin nightclub that took root in an abandoned bank vault located in the former DMZ right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. What started as just another renegade party thrown by the city's wild youth in the throes of 1991 reunification has somehow sustained that spirit for 25 years, remaining one of the essential destinations for techno tourists from around the world and building a catalog of music via the club's namesake label that has defined the sound of pure techno for multiple generations.
To celebrate this longevity, Tresor is throwing a series of events around the world this year, including a three-day festival to take place in Berlin at the end of July. This week marks the label's first party in Detroit during the annual Movement Festival. It's a long time coming, given the club and label's connection with the city's techno innovators that dates back to the very first release in 1991, X-101 (a collaborative effort from Underground Resistance members Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, and Mike Banks).
Further marking two and half decades of techno excellence, THUMP recruited five of the genre's finest practitioners to demonstrate the label's depth and breadth by telling us their favorite Tresor releases—and yeah, a single Robert Hood release gets three separate nods.
1. Jeff Mills - Waveform Transmission Vol. 1
I remember one time that James Ruskin and Richard Polson came to visit me in Birmingham in the late '90s. We were pretty drunk at my flat one night and listened to Waveform Transmission Vol. 1 really, really loud. It was so much fun. This album captures raw energy perfectly. My downstairs neighbors were so mad at us, but we didn't hear them banging on my door until we'd listened to the whole album.
2. Robert Hood - Internal Empire
This release, along with Minimal Nation, are so important. Go and listen to them, do it now! Robert Hood showed how much could be done with so little. In a way, it's both the perfect counterpoint and companion to Waveform Transmission Vol. 1.
3. Joey Beltram - Places
I don't know how many copies of this I wore out because I played some of the tracks so much in my DJ sets. Cutting up two copies of "Game Form" was a particular favorite. I remember Joey told me that initially he felt the sound of this album was too clean, so he fed all the tracks back through his DJ mixer, overdriving the channel to make them a little more dirty.
4. Cristian Vogel - (Don't) Take More
It's all about the Jamie Lidell remix for me. This has an amazing effect on the audience at techno parties in Japan. It's a 100% sure fire hit. I don't know what it is about it, but the Japanese crowd always lose it to this one, since it came out in '97, until this day.
5. Karl O'Connor & Peter Sutton - Againstnature
Relentless, penetrating brutality. I vaguely remember that Karl wanted Tresor to make a t-shirt to accompany this album that said something like, "Nuclear War Now!" on it. Perhaps it was that or the stylized picture of a fetus that made the label refuse to produce it.
6. Surgeon - "Remnants of What Once Was"
I'd already been a fan of Surgeon's albums for a couple of years, but Force & Form was the first album that hung together as more than a collection of tracks. The songs are contextualized among field recordings and background ambiences such as mobile-phone GSM interruptions. Sometimes these interludes come between tracks as you'd expect, but what's interesting is when they interrupt a track in progress to divert the listener's attention so when the beat returns in a different form you feel you're evaluating a shape from multiple angles.
7. Cristian Vogel - General Arrepentiase
I think that Cristian's late Tresor albums (also including Dungeon Master and The Never Engine) travel to the farthest possible point from dance music while still clearly representing techno. Not really for head-nodding, these tracks pretty much demand your undivided attention. General Arrepentiase in particular blows my head off with its internal digressions of the beat, and the ridiculous screeching robot in the second half.
8. Infiniti - Skynet
A perfect example of classic Detroit motifs that sound smooth at first but the recording is full of the imperfections of a live take. The sloppy punch-ins and dense mix bordering on distortion creates a feeling of urgency and excitement and it reminds me of my own efforts. Before I had any multi-tracking, I would record 10 takes of a groove to DAT and know instinctively when I had nailed the take.
9. Regis - "The Theme From Streetwalker"
Before I'd ever traveled to Berlin and visited the actual club, I was listening to the Tresor 100 compilation, driving a junky car through the dirty snow in Madison, Wisconsin. The mechanical coldness of this track perfectly fit the grey scene. It was only later that I learned to experience it under the appropriate speakers and strobes.
10. Piers Headley – Music For Toilets
This album was playing on infinite repeat in the washroom at the Markthalle on Pücklerstr for years. Every time I was in town, I'd check into one of the upstairs rooms. After the schnitzel and kristallweizen, this album's tropical forest ambiance would confuse me at first and then remind me the weekend was about to begin.
11. Karl O'Connor | Peter Sutton - "Guiltless"
To this day, it is still one of the most powerful records I have ever heard. It's brooding, hypnotic, and full of tension. People still come running to the booth any time I play this track. For anyone into the darker side of contemporary techno, this is an essential album to own.
12. Surgeon - "Returning to the Purity of Current"
Of all the amazing Surgeon releases on Tresor, I simply chose this album because it was my introduction to him. I was too young to catch the first run of his earlier releases and for me. 1999 was all about experimental music and the tribal techno trend. Those two shouldn't fit together but he made it happen. This album hit the nail on the head and cemented him as one of my all-time favorite producers. Pro tip: check out the Remakes EP if you're looking for additional club accessible versions.
13. James Ruskin - "Detachedz"
I honestly forgot about this album and haven't played anything off of it for about 4 years. It's going straight back into rotation. The entire album is essential Ruskin stuff and it kicks fuckin' ass. Please excuse the pun, but when you listen to 2016 techno, he set the Blueprint for this sound 16 years ago. Tresor, if you're listening, let's get a remastered LP campaign going here.
14. Holy Ghost - "Hand of God"
Holy Ghost's discography and live sets are not only incredible, but also highly underrated. They really nailed it with this album. If we're going to have the "dream line ups" chat, I'd book them. What's not to love about twisted Elvis-esque monologues over 140+ bpm machine funk? Ok, a lot...but fuck these guys are awesome. Bonus Tip: Check out "Klub'd Out" if you like housey stuff. It's a secret weapon of mine...well, maybe not anymore.
15. Stewart Walker - Live Extracts
I chose this because it's important to stress that there's a lot more to Tresor than all the mega anthems and multiple releases from legends like Robert Hood or Jeff Mills. Tresor is also rich with a lot of left-of-center material from very talented people like Stewart and Christian Vogel. I was going to initially go with "Nothing Produces Stark Imagery" because it's a near-perfect true minimal record, but this is a great album for DJs and listeners alike. It's perfect for the pre-party at home, or you can bang that shit in the car on the way to the club!
DETROIT TECHNO MILITIA
16. X-101 - X-101
This is the record that set the stage for hundreds of records to come on the label. Hard and aggressive before it became a thing. It encompasses everything that I love about the early Underground Resistance incarnation of Banks and Mills. It's weird, it's conceptual, it's dystopian, it's soulful, and it's hard as fuck. It's abstract and artsy enough for the intelligentsia, and powerful beast-mode Techno for the headbangers who know.
17. Bam Bam - Best Of Westbrook Classics
"Where Is Your Child" became the standout track and an instant Acid House classic, but my favorite track on the album is "Give It To Me." It's a rough-and-tough Hip-House joint with a healthy dose of acidic grinding thrown in for good measure.
18. Joey Beltram - Code 6
"Aumento" is one of the greatest Techno tracks of all time. This record slays every dance floor that I have ever performed in front of. The only problem with this track is that it is so dense and powerfully produced that it is difficult to find another track that can hold up next to it. Ten years later, I still play it out on the regular.
19. Various – True Spirit. Part I
This compilation introduced the rest of the world to the sound of the Tresor club. The Maurizo mix of Vainquer's "Lyot" has always been a favorite of mine and a classic in Detroit even though it wasn't originally released on the Tresor label. It has all of the elements of power; deep Detroit-y synth chords and a driving 909 kick that blows minds whenever it plays. Not to mention a bunch more killer classics on the comp.
20. Robert Hood - Internal Empire
This is the album that embodied the stripped down, minimal approach to Techno music to the world outside of Detroit. It displays everything that is beautiful about the Detroit sound. The entire album is soul through simplicity.
*all DTM selections by T. Linder
21. Robert Hood - Internal Empire
To me, it's one of the very best techno album ever made. The "less is more" thing, it's extremely stripped down and so rich at the same time. It is the most accurate example of minimal techno. A crucial record. Masterpiece...
22. Joey Beltram - Instant
It's the release that really made me discover Tresor/ After hearing it in a mix, I started to look after that track to find out who did it and so on. It was in the late '90s and I finally found it after some research, and so it's the first time I'd seen the Tresor logo. So an important "instant" for me.
23. The Advent - Sound Sketches
I discovered this one around 2000 at one of a good friend's place. He had a little stash of '90s techno, maybe only a dozen of records, and this was one of them. I just fell in love with this EP, so hypnotizing and powerful at the same time. I've played it a few times in the vault, and it's always very special...
24. Surgeon - Balance
One of my faves from Surgeon, some very strong tracks like "Movement," but also a deeper approach on some cuts like "Golden" that wears its name perfectly.. a real killer!
25. Pacou - Sense EP
Pacou is a pure Tresor guy, and a fantastic producer. He did some very good music over the years for the label, and this one is a nice example of what he's capable of. Amazing cuts. I've played this one so many times...