It’s difficult to have a conversation about German techno producer Dominik Eulberg’s music without at least a mention of his extracurricular interests in biology and forest ranger work. We can attribute this to the fact that it’s an unconventional nugget of information that plays well within bar chatter, but also because Eulberg’s science-related passions reportedly figure into the development of his music. Diorama is his fourth full-length album, an opus of diverse, meticulously arranged techno that he connects to nature in track titles, fanciful song discussions within the liner notes, and an ornate album cover that references J.R.R. Tolkien as much as it does his also outdoors-informed 2004 full-length Flora & Fauna.
Aligned with the appeal of the wooded stretches to which Eulberg has always looked for inspiration, each of Diorama‘s pieces is named for a list of “natural wonders” put together by the producer and staff members at NABU magazine, a periodical published by a 112-year old biodiversity conservation group headquartered in Berlin. Even as all steps are taken to anchor Eulberg’s album to nature, it’s really just elaborate and compelling electronic music, whether or not you’re familiar with the flowery context.
Everything from jawless fish to bears to streams get a German language-titled slot in Diorama‘s tracklist. Field recordings were worked into any moment on the record that isn’t completely filled out by rich, sparkling chords. Not unlike other headphone atmospherics-focused artists like Efdemin or most of the stuff at the Traum office, Eulberg ensures that plenty of micro-dynamics cycle in and out of each speaker. The detuned drones lining “Teddy Tausendtod” spiral off into multiple directions, while the back end of “Das Neunauge” flutters and churns until its final few seconds. Every miniature click and fizz is placed with purpose and tact, often on a path paved with grandiose melodic development.
Opening on a nod-along midtempo note rife with rapid-fire vocal hiccups, Diorama‘s “Täuschungs-Blume” is drowsy and dreamy. A pairing of classic hip hop-funk drum breaks and delicate, echoing plinks is as loud as it gets, ala Far Away Trains…-era Ulrich Schnauss. With piano- and strings-led closer “Metamorphose” as well a subdued “Aeronaut”, Eulberg softens the mood, drawing perhaps more attention to Diorama‘s wealth of warm chord progressions. There are propulsive endeavors that Eulberg reserves for the dancefloor, but they’re all uncompromisingly led with huge, skyscraper melodies. He’d sooner pull the beats out of the bottom of a track entirely before building-out an already lavish swell at the center of it.
In “Echomaus”, Eulberg returns to the frenzied pulse that essentially closes Bionik, the 2007 Cocoon-released album that’s bare in most places compared to this one. There are similarities between the two, as Bionik‘s minimal stylings are rooted in nature through bird-call samples and insect sounds. But Diorama‘s lush synths, particularly those sweeping over the pugnacious rhythms in “Echomaus”, are far more prominent here than they’ve ever been in Eulberg’s work. Witness “Die 3 Millionen Musketiere”, a powerful and club-ready rave breakbeat monster, rippling with psychedelic movement and glassy melodies. The delicate chimes at the onset are consistent with a Diorama trademark: beats thunder beneath the producer’s dancefloor-tailored tracks while above ground it’s bliss, with bell patterns and synths rushing to the fore. It doesn’t sound like the forest, but it is rather awe-inspiring.