“Munich techno” wasn’t much of a thing outside of Germany—until the Zenker Brothers came along. The Bavarian natives started their DJ careers as residents at one of southern Germany’s most legendary nightclubs, Harry Klein—despite family ties with its rival, Rote Sonne. The siblings’ renown grew outside the region with the growing popularity of their label, Ilian Tape, which they launched in 2007. Over the past ten years, the outpost has fostered a stable of new-school techno talent that includes producers like Stenny and Andrea, Sciahri and Skee Mask. Those artists and more feature on A Decade Ilian Tape, a triple-LP compilation celebrating the milestone that was released a few weeks ago. We tapped some of Ilian’s biggest champions, which includes some of techno’s most beloved names (i.e. Marcel Dettmann once penned a recommendation of the Brothers’ album for us), to reflect on the catalog to date and pick out their favorite Ilian cuts.
Anthony Parasole: Dario Zenker, “Spidin” from Installment 4809N (2012)
“From the very first listen I instantly gravitated towards ‘Spidin’—it’s such a dark, powerful track that has such a soulful personal touch all over it, from the way that Dario played the lead keys so loosely across the entire track over such a powerful brooding bassline and the constant swing of the hats cutting thru [sic] a filter in and out. Such few elements but so much technique, which always keeps it moving and ever-evolving. It’s such an immense track in a big room. I absolutely love this song and the emotion that lies inside it!”
Courtesy: Stenny & Andrea, “SEA (The Time Gate)” from Vostok Smokescreen (2013)
“I’m always searching for heavier tracks that incorporate emotional pads like on ‘SEA’ by Stenny & Andrea. It’s a heartbreaker and I love the groove of the slightly abrupt kickdrum. But to be honest, I could easily have selected a 20-track playlist from Ilian Tape, because they have been one of my top labels for years now. They’re always on the forefront, putting out records that have a playful approach to drum patterns while keeping it big room appropriate—and, to be frank, they’re the only label that can scratch my Head High itch.”
Rebekah: Stenny, “Outime Artifacts” from Solstice Deity (2013)
“This was a really hard choice to make, as going back through the collection you realize how many timeless pieces Dario and Marco have put out through the years, which is a true testament to their no-compromise ethos. ‘Outime Artifacts’ is pure gold, a huge piece of arpeggiators and lush pads take me to a dream space. Pitch it down even more to prolong the magic.”
Etapp Kyle: Skee Mask, “Panorama” from Shred (2016)
“I’ve been carefully following Skee Mask since his very first release on Ilian Tape. But his album Shred made him one of my favorite producers now. ‘Panorama’ is absolutely outstanding, timeless work. Perfect combination of complex broken-beat and beautiful dreamy pads makes it sound very sophisticated, as does the whole album overall. Perfect material to close or open a set or just for home listening, which is what I’ve been doing for a while now.”
DJ Pete: Andrés Zacco, “Thaw (Rupcy Remix)” from ITX06 (2015)
“I took the easy way and just chose the track that I’ve played the most out of all Ilian Tape tracks, even if it doesn’t really reflect what I love most about the label; loads of emotions and extremely warm and crispy, funky techno with Detroit influences and affiliations to UK broken beats, broken techno and IDM. I’m definitely a huge Andrea and Stenny fan, and I love all their work, so may they forgive me for not choosing one of their solo tracks. ? ‘Thaw (Rupcy Remix)’ for me definitely is a highlight on the label, because it has the power to stick out from all the other great tracks while ‘just’ being a beat track. The positioning of all percussion with prominent accent on the spot right before the kicks gives the track infinite drive, stamina and vitality. The breaks let you lift off the floor for a little float, and the drop of the monumental drums make you feel the ground again. Smart use of stereo delays surround the listener and deliver lightness, which is a wonderful ingredient for the quite heavy track.”
Johanna Knutsson: Marco Zenker, “Remain Silent” from Blue Air (2011)
“This EP was the first I ever heard from this label, and I found it through the Conforce remix. However, I actually ended up playing ‘Remain Silent’ more, and it slowly grew to be a personal favorite. It’s so airy and dubby—not too techno and not too housey, no vocals. All of my favorite things in one. I think every release since that one has hit me right in the feels, so it was really really hard for me to choose only one favorite. Can I make a special shoutout to the tracks ‘Black Box’ by Marco Zenker and ‘Surface Hoax’ by Stenny, too please? Best Regards// fangirl_84”
Julia Govor: Stenny, “Eternal Restriction (Zenker Brothers Remix)” from Eternal Restriction (2014)
“The first time I heard his track, I imagined my childhood. I was taking a train with my parents, I was staring into the window, watching villages, towns, houses and endless forests pass by. I was watching other peoples’ lives and wondering about who they are and what they were thinking about. It was a flashback. That constantly growing energy, twisted melody supported by simple progression plus classic futuristic pads and the high notes that bite you make this track one of the most cinematic techno tracks I’ve ever heard. I wanna close my eyes every time I hear this track. I love using my imagination; I love to feel something real. And of course, signature drum kits from Zenker Brothers made this track very useful for the dance floors, almost straightforward. Heavy bass keeps you focused.
A few years ago when I played before Jeff Mills, I turned my head and saw Jeff, put this ‘Eternal Restriction’ remix on, and half of the dance floor was dancing with their eyes closed. When I turned my head again, I saw the same reaction from Mills. I thought: ‘What are they all imagining in this moment?’”
Matrixxman: Dario Zenker, “Universal Spice” from Dedication (2012)
“Goosebumps. Who says techno has to be cold and lifeless? One of the reasons I like the Zenker Brothers is because they don’t shy away from emotive melodies, and this tune by Dario is an excellent example of that. It’s got soul, a characteristic that’s increasingly rare in this day and age. Never heard this tune on a system, but I can imagine it would sound amazing.”
Published March 13, 2017.