The Zenker Brothers, Marco and Dario, have done very well in carving out their own niche in German techno. Whether in the solo material that they have both been putting out since the late '00s or in their collaborative efforts that date back to 2011, the brothers have established their own creative twist on the techno blueprint. Their tracks often, but not always, take taut greyscale techno patterns and daub them with off-kilter melodies. Whilst they're certainly not their first producers to splice together Detroit-style chords and synths with turbulent European basslines, their attention to detail and design has allowed them to develop a sound that is very much their own.
'Immersion' is the first album from the brothers, either individually or together. What's more, it presents just how well suited their sound is to the long-player format. Their innovative approach to melody and occasionally experimental approach to production, coupled with their technical proficiency, invites careful listening and ensures that their sound remains stimulating outside of a club context. It is, to borrow the title of the album, music that induces the listener to immerse themselves within it. From the off, with the somatic dub-techno ambience of 'Mintro' and the highly-pressurised drums and sonic stabs of second track 'Aisel', the brothers make it clear that this isn't going to be an album in which one boilerplate techno banger follows another.
That's not to suggest that this is an album devoid of music that would suit being played out in a club, far from it. There are plenty of all-out techno tracks that will no doubt be rinsed by DJs in the coming months. Having eased the listener into the album with 'Mintro' and 'Aisel', third track 'Phing' ups the ante, offering a sweaty workout defined by sharp-tipped drums and choppy chords. 'Innef Runs' follows, offering a similarly cavernous but more percussive jam that punches out patterns through competing drums and a deep flowing bassline. Later on in the album, 'High Club' and 'Cornel 21' find the brothers at their sleekest, with shuffling hi-hats sliding over tumultuous basslines and meancing synths floating above the composition like dark, moody clouds.
Yet, the reason that the album works so well is that these masterfully produced but more straightforward episodes are punctuated by unusual and innovative moments. 'TSV WB' arrives midway through the album, a track which appropriates the echoing breaks and synths of early '90s UK rave, slowing it down by a few notches so as everything - whilst still sound vigorous - takes on a dreamy and unreal quality. 'Erbquake' follows, offering a cold and steely horizon of abstract sounds, echoing over one another and flying overhead. But, it's 'Ebbman', arriving eight tracks in, that finds the brothers at their most successful. Here, a rapid chopping beat accompanies an expansive and warm yet distorted melody for the kind of beguiling juxtaposition that sets pulses racings.
Reaching its conclusion with 'Outark', a track that seems to melt into a gestalt of blacks and greys before taking a leftfield twist with the vibrant emergence of fizzing synths, the Zenker Brothers underline just why the album works so well. It wrong foots the listener at every moment. Just when you think you have the record worked out, it lurches in a different direction. This isn't so much a case of listener expectations being disappointed or exceeded, so much as having to suspend expectations entirely.
The result is an album that is not only heterogeneous in a way that many dance-music albums aren't, but paradoxically gives it a satisfying coherency and cogency. It's perhaps unsurprising that given the Zenker Brothers already have close to two-decade worth of production experience between them their debut album would be a success. What is remarkable though is the way in which it achieves such a fine balance between established techno tropes and genuine innovation, and between club-ready bangers and carefully sculpted home-listening music. It might only be February, but it's difficult not to feel that this will be one of the techno LPs of 2015.