- The painting on the cover of Folk shows a salmon-pink railcar compartment with a window looking out into the pitch-black. Fittingly, the record didn't quite come together for me until I listened to it during a long train ride. Trees, hills, houses, whole towns and even cities roared by with a rhythmic regularity that felt of a piece with the music on Nick Höppner's first solo album. In both the tracks and the scene out my window, the details arrived in flashes, and focusing on the nuances felt beside the point. The beauty was in how the constituent parts smeared together, and how an ebullient groove emerged from the blur.
Even when Höppner's sound overlapped with what was called "minimal" by the late-'00s—MyMy, his group with Lee Jones, made some of that period's most lasting records—the Berliner never seemed all that interested in paring his tunes down to the mere essentials. His discography and his DJ sets encompass a range of styles, but you can usually spot a Nick Höppner record by its sumptuous layering. It's not maximalism—not by a long shot—but neither is it starved for ornamentation or rhythmic flourish. Some producers become better editors as they grow, but Höppner has become a master of the unwieldy, wrangling ever-heftier compositions with ease. Folk has some of his most voluptuous productions yet, but they're as light on their feet as they are lush on the ears.
Höppner works in two modes here: gorgeous reveries that swell outward and dense club workouts that pull inward. "Mirror Image," the second track, is Rhodes-laden deep house as only Höppner would have it, with cascades of flanging drums building to a synth-y climax. The album's closer, "No Stealing," goes even bigger, feeding Eno-style pads into a percussive churn. Like a sunset, it fades out slowly and magnificently. In between points A and B is the cut likely to do the most damage: "Rising Overheads," a track that starts innocently enough before taking on penetrating low-end and relentlessly reverberating cymbals. The eerie throb that follows, "Grind Show," feels like the aftershock.
Folk meanders ever so slightly as it bounds toward its big finish. On "Come Closer," Höppner overshoots by a fingernail, layering a processed vocal line over buoyant house that would have done fine on its own. And "Relate," slowed down and inflected with bits of guitar grunge, stalls the album's otherwise brisk momentum. These are finer points, though, and Folk, with its soaring aesthetic and locomotive energy, plows straight through them.
02. Mirror Image
03. Out Of
04. Rising Overheads
05. Grind Show
06. Come Closer
07. Airway Management
09. No Stealing