Nick Höppner, Red Hook Soil EP

[Ostgut Ton]

Nick Höppner is kind of a cult figure in Berlin. His name may not ride at the top of every bill, but his unassuming sets are always talked about. In particular, he has a reputation for being that rare sort of DJ who’s prepared to play anything. Coupled with the infrequency of his own 12″s, it’s easy to deduce Höppner is a DJ first and a producer second (if one ignores his label manager position at Ostgut Ton, of course). When he does venture a release, it’s likely for that oft-cited reason: “No one else was making what I wanted to hear.” True to form, all three tracks on Red Hook Soil have a subtle uniqueness to them, and share the same DNA as Höppner’s previous efforts.

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Built out of chunky drums and misty chords, the title track has a plodding functionality. It’s the sort of low-key groove that keeps floors bubbling at 9 am. There are plenty of tracks that fill this niche, but they’re rarely as interesting, instead falling on the bland side of hypnotic. “Bait & Tackle” is a very different beast, but it remains colored by Höppner’s penchant for unbreakable rhythm. Here, the power of the beats is upped, and they’ve been smothered with all sorts of synthy weirdness. It’s like Daniel Stefanik and Peter Kruder got freaky. Ignoring his Panorama Bar inclinations, “Decal” sees Höppner channeling the spirit of Berghain below and draining it of testosterone. Some, anyway: its racing kicks aren’t devoid of clout, especially when paired with crashing gongs and niggling chords. Of the three, it feels most like a tool — an impression which is present in varying amounts, regardless of which track is playing or how many non-standard features they contain. It’s for this reason that Höppner’s work will probably continue to fly under the radar: it feels incredibly directed, like he’s talking to himself, rather than an audience. It’s a shame, because the things he has to say are clearly interesting. 

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