PITCHFORK | April 19,2018 | EN

Dekmantel’s Selectors series is an unusual proposition. Though a DJ helms each installment, they are compilations, not mixes. The theme varies according to the selector. Germany’s Motor City Drum Ensemble summed up his soulful predilections by licensing a bunch of decades-old, out-of-print house music; the Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann highlighted his industrial roots with tracks from Front 242, Ministry, and Clan of Xymox. The franchise is a bit like Back to Mine or Late Night Tales, just for people that drop their monthly grocery budget on rare 12″s on Discogs.

The concept is an outgrowth of the recent trend for “selector”-style DJs, said to dig deeper than their merely crowd-pleasing peers. (Dekmantel, a Dutch label and events outfit, also has a spin-off festival, Selectors, dedicated to the same.) On its face, unearthing seldom-heard records might seem to be a basic part of the DJ’s job; that it has been deemed worthy of notice says something about the state of dance music, where the quality of surprise has been downgraded to a nice-to-have rather than an essential component.

But if anyone deserves the tag, the German DJ Lena Willikens does. Her style of playing—slow and ominous, given to grinding machine grooves and clammy atmospheres—is unusually distinctive. She honed her chops as a resident at Düsseldorf’s famously eclectic Salon des Amateurs, a club known for its wide-open musical policy, and her sets are full of curveballs and head-scratchers, the sorts of tracks Shazam can’t begin to puzzle out.

That Willikens has released very little original music under her name makes Selectors 005 feel even more worthwhile as a rare opportunity to hear the world through her ears. At Barcelona’s Sónar last year, she turned a daytime, outdoor slot usually reserved for feel-good grooves into a dungeon acid séance, meting out bone-chilling EBM that stubbornly refused to break a sweat. Here, too, the tempos tend toward cryogenic. Minor keys predominate, and textures are resolutely analog, favoring unvarnished drum machines, gravelly synths, and an omnipresent lo-fi sheen.