Justin Berkovi - Charm Hostel
Intricate, swinging 90s techno with a playful side
Charm Hostel is the first full-length CD by Justin Berkovi, a legendary London techno/electro producer and founder of the underrated label Predicaments; a clearinghouse for the kind of swinging, complex, and digitally precise techno that emerged as DAWs rose to prominence near the turn of the millennium.
The album is a thrill ride of jittering excitement, full of zapping kicks, razor sharp hats, and resonant synths that blur the lines between melody and percussion. Pitched drums, metallic stabs, and syncopated blips, roiling together in a pointillistic stew of kitchen-sink rhythm. There's an improvisational flair to the compositions, and a kind of "why not" snark to the sound palette, juxtaposing highly processed atmospheric sounds with cheeky drum presets.
Berkovi's adventurously manic style employs the of expanded sound pallet of IDM, but welded to a jacking techno frame, evoking other 90s innovators like Spooky or (occasional collaborator) Ibrahim Alfa. Sometimes the almost stochastic melodies ring a little hollow as the tracks hurdle towards rhythmic euphoria; but the zonked, manic energy of even the album's most bone-headed hooks is part of the charm.