- After years of making and playing house music, Nick Höppner is entering a new phase of creativity. In 2012 he gave up his post as Ostgut Ton's label manager to dedicate himself more fully to DJing and producing. Now he's taking that a step further, honing his craft not as a producer but as a musician, looking past the demands of the club to focus more on self-expression, and channeling more than ever the music—shoegaze, indie, IDM, UK garage—that inspired him before house and techno. Work shows him partway through this transition.
A few of the tracks here are among the boldest and most mature things Höppner's ever put his name to. Busy composition has always been his thing—or, as Jordan Rothlein once put it, "sumptuous layering." On Work he does this better than ever before. "All By Themselves (My Belle)" is like a snow globe of glittering loops and sounds, nudged along by a gently stepping beat. "Hole Head" recalls the teeming arrangements of Mouse On Mars, one of Höppner's early inspirations, but with the buttery smoothness that's long defined his own music. "The Dark Segment," a 99 BPM crawler that's mostly low-end, sounds like a transmission from the ocean floor.
A collection of lush and unconventional pieces like these would make a very fine album. But Work also has a slew of straightforward house tracks, which feel far too safe here and steal a bit of the record's momentum. After the dreamlike introduction of "All By Themselves (My Belle)," there's no telling where the album will go—a great effect for an opening track to have. But "Clean Living," with its modern update of a classic house template, fails to deliver on that promise, offering instead the thing one would most expect from a Panorama Bar resident's album on Ostgut Ton. The same goes for "Fly Your Colours" and "In My Mind." On their own they might be fine, but they feel flat amidst so many fresher ideas.
That's not to say Höppner should have ditched the club vibe completely. "Forced Resonance" and "From Up And Down" show how dance floor-friendly music can work on an album—it just needs a sense of poetry to give it purpose beyond the party context. Perhaps the album's most telling track is "Three Is A Charm," a collaboration with Randweg that combines elements of indie rock and synth pop to surprisingly tender effect. Höppner has proven he can bare his soul in his music—not a skill all musicians have, especially DJ / producers. He should do it more fearlessly next time.
01. All By Themselves (My Belle)
02. Clean Living feat. Tram 78
03. In My Mind
04. Hole Head
05. The Dark Segment
06. Forced Resonance
07. Fly Your Colours
08. From Up And Down
09. Three Is A Charm feat. Randweg