When it comes to techno, few brands have less need for introduction than Berlin’s Ostgut Ton label. Born out of the murky depths of Berghain, the world’s most fetishized dance venue, the label has transformed the face of techno with releases from the likes of Ben Klock, Shed, Ame, Prosumer, Ryan Elliott… the list could go on for quite some time, but you get the point.
Not exactly on the list of Wire’s hardest sales, the mid-February Ostgut Ton showcase with Nick Höppner and Tama Sumo was set up to be a busy night, and provided an atmosphere to match the billing.
Though an accomplished and well-regarded producer and DJ in his own right, Nick Höppner’s influence is possibly felt most broadly thanks to his key role in the running of Ostgut Ton, which he managed until 2012. Tasked with instilling the vision that has ensured that the label mirrors the razor sharpness of its home dwelling, Höppner has become renowned as somewhat of a quality guarantor, surrounding himself with the power players of German dance music and contributing to the rise of some of the most legendary names in modern techno.
Tama Sumo, on the other hand, has forged her career purely through her DJing abilities, providing the Panorama Bar house stylings to the more brutalist tastes of her Berghain contemporaries and in doing so becoming one of the most worshipped figures in the game.
The first of the two to step up, Höppner used his set to weave groovy techno melodies into hypnotic layers of bleeps and clicks, a myriad of flickering loops held tightly together by the steady thud of weighty kick drums. Dipping into garage with almost pop-like sensibilities, his twists and turns seemed careful and confident, Höppner avoiding any urges to shock or surprise and instead offering the subtle progressions that reveal themselves in his productions. Perhaps less frenzied than other recent nights at the hands of Butter Side Up, the crowd responded with alacrity to even the most sensitive of movements, reflecting the attention to detail that is placed upon every O-ton release.
It is here that Höppner and Tama Sumo demonstrated most clearly their common ground, and with it concisely symbolised the Ostgut Ton philosophy. Both adopting unassuming mixing styles, the focus was not on impact so much as transfixion; not representative of the self-declaring rock star DJ generation, the two offer a reframing of clubbing culture, with the focus placed not on the understated motion of hands on decks, but on the speakers and receivers. Blessed as both are with extraordinary talents, the show was not about them – their immaculately indecipherable mixing removing the rush of blood euphoria of the recognised drop in favour of the uninterrupted and unbroken night-long piece. Not so much performers as facilitators, the pair offered an insight into the intellectuality behind 4/4 dance music, engaging the audience without extravagance or rear-view mirror glances.
The reputation that comes with being a Berghain resident is not bestowed without foundation, and that evening’s BSU guests are likely to have few doubts as to why Ostgut Ton commands such respect, even within an industry flooded with such a plethora of mesmerising artists.
Words by Andrew Kemp
Photos courtesy of Justin Gardner