Olaf Dettinger
‘s Intershop is the second CD that was ever released on Kompakt Records. As it is usually filed away under the Minimal subgenre, few Ambient fans are aware of its existence. And indeed, Dettinger uses electronic drum kits prominently and even ventures into the Clicks & Cuts genre that was en vogue at the turn of the millennium. And yet, the shimmering Ambient melodies which can be found on every of the 7 songs succeed and push themselves to the forefront where they shine all the more. It is the marvelous unity of the cold but delicately clicking hi-hats and warm, swirling synthscapes that make this album so incredibly great. It is also due to this mixture that the songs aren‘t overly warm and encompassing but raise a certain wall of distance sometime, but this effect is only temporary or possibly entirely imaginary in the end. Due to its title, Intershop can also be interpreted as an interesting foil to Oval‘s 94 Diskont of 1995 that featured mostly shop-related track titles and songs full of astonishingly warm and oscillating analogous sounds with a whole clustering of static noises, modem sounds and chopped, almost jazzy microsamples. In comparison to 94 Diskont, Intershop is rightly categorized as a Minimal album, but somehow builds the idea of a fitting application range, for example as background music in voguish internet shops. That Intershop might also refer to a government-run chain of retail stores in the German Democratic Republic is just an additional layer that links back to the idea of an entanglement between commerce and music.


In typical early Kompakt tradition, all tracks are untitled and thus allow the focus on the music and the interpretation of a perfect entity that is spliced into 7 parts. Track 1 slowly fades in and introduces multiple synth layers of frosty, crystalline and bright quality. A dominantly shuffling beat sets in, with added soft-footed bass drums a few seconds later. This particular structure is looped permanently and doesn‘t change at all apart from occassional percussion-related syncopations. To my mind, there isn‘t enough change over the runtime of almost 8 minutes, but that doesn‘t mean that I dislike the song; it is just another hint at the minimal approach – minimalism refers to less change in this case, but the loops themselves are flawlessly eclectic and extensively layered. Track 2 is about 5 minutes long and adds a completely different emotion to the album: warmth. Mesmerizingly tremoling drones with deep undertones and the permanent rhythm of liquid clicks plus close by shakers build a fantastic team that is supplemented with short, gentle drum pulses. Track 3 starts with vinyl-like crackles, shiftingly synth modulations with glimpses of darkness. The added percussion consists of sharp hihats, and the dominant breakbeat rhythm adds a hip hop flavor of acts like Dabrye and Prefuse 73 to the album. This track is also surprisingly shifting, pumping and changing.


The shortest track on the album is Track 4 and consists of one monotonous but peaceful background string with added shimmers, clear cut snares and the foreshadowing device of high-pitched claves that were also used on Dettinger‘s second and, to this day, last album called Oasis of 2000. The song ends with almost 50 seconds playtime of the now isolated string, revealing its qualities and setup to the careful listener. Track 5 is almost my favorite on the album, with gorgeously sanguine, coruscating synth washes, glacial synth strings that don‘t distract from the ongoing comfortable ambience of the track at all, and permanent beats of high-pitched toms. The brightest and most soothing track for sure. Track 6 is the gargantuan centerpiece of the album with almost 10 minutes of pure bliss. It‘s the best track Dettinger has ever delivered, including his guest performances on the label‘s Pop Ambient series. Warm and comforting synth strings are playing while muffled percussion accompanies the setting. Eventually the slow beat becomes much clearer and is now the dominant part of the track. After 2 minutes and 40 seconds, the most gorgeous element of the song is introduced: spellbinding synth eruptions, short flows of blissful synth pads and galactic flute-like square leads form a towering element of sumperimposition. Suddenly, the beats don‘t sound as dominant as before, but seem to amplify the energy of the synths. Absolutely mindblowing! Track 7 ends the album with an incongruous note of despair and minimalism: a 4-second loop of gentle acid-like synth pads with added encores in the background make this a weak and unfitting track in my opinion. Luckily, it is the only exception of an otherwise flawless and strong album.


In hindsight, I can assent for sure that Dettinger delivered a very important album for the Cologne label, for it merges the fashionable Minimal genre with timeless synth sounds and beautiful soundscapes. Brighter and darker elements alternate on a rotating basis, and the evoked mood is always friendly, hypnotic and soothing. Yes, there are also colder elements in there that add a certain distant bristliness to the mix, but this is anticipated and specified both by the album title and its spacey and aseptically whitewashed front cover. The album doesn‘t sound dated at all, and while you cannot expect wide areas of aural bliss and thick synths à la Markus Guentner‘s In Moll, the synths are eclectically layered and skilfully modulated. If you don‘t mind the dominant drums and beats, this album is a valuable addition at worst and a mindblowing experience at best.  




Further reading:

You can listen to the whole album on the Intershop section on Do yourself a favor and give Track 5 and Track 6 a spin!




Ambient Review 030: Dettinger – Intershop (1999). Originally released on Feburary 1, 2012 at