Touch From A Distance is a new label started by Nick Höppner, the DJ and producer most known for his association with Berghain/Panorama Bar and its in-house imprint, Ostgut Ton. The label takes its name from Joy Division’s “Transmission”: “Not only am I a big Joy Division fan, but the name also puts quite aptly what I am trying to do with the label and, on a more general level, how music works,” explains Höppner. For its first release, Höppner approached Desert Sound Colony, a British producer who can’t be pinned down to one particular style with six releases spread across different labels over the past year alone. “I was never really interested in making only one sort of music and so the progression into the current sound was probably inevitable. I always want to be learning something new and feeling full of excitement in the studio and so this changing of the sound is one of the ways that that manifests,” the artist told us. Höppner was a fan of DSC’s second release on his own Holding Hands platform, and a friend recommended him to Höppner when he set about establishing the new label. “Only a few weeks later Liam came to Berlin to see friends and we also met and decided on the spot to work together,” Höppner says.
The release’s opening track, the titular “Fast Life”, starts with straightforward breaks, leading into an enormously wide bass line with wavering synth melodies calling back to the ’00s. That’s no bad thing, as this thing quivers with emotion and conjures up ideas of shiny big rooms without resorting to any cheap tricks. The only word that comes to mind when listening to it is huge. “Somehow I Talk” dials back on the energy somewhat, but it doesn’t do so in greyscale. Its rhythmic patterns are on similar lines, while operating in an entirely different sphere. Gone are the towering bass lines and soaring synths, replaced with wonky elements and awkward robotic voices. The words of the track name are repeated throughout, adding humour and irreverence to what otherwise could be a serious techno jaunt. “I believe that you can take silliness very seriously and you can also be very silly in a serious situation,” the artist says. “Some of the best times of my life have involved being incredibly silly at a festival with friends whilst listening to super intense serious techno.”
“Finger Flies” continues on this silly path, with wobbly, amelodic tones and Morricone-esque whistles bouncing over jerky syncopated drum patterns. Finally, “Glixen”, which features Baby Rollen (“a rare pet Baby Rollen that I keep in the studio. Sometimes he comes out of his cage and jumps on a track with me”), is a beat-heavy percussive workout that’s deceptive in its simplicity. Just a few elements come together, a single organ chord and a pitched-down vocal adding flavour until stretched warbles and unknown sounds bring a hint of melody. It’s a solid bounce that will no doubt sound immense when played at the right moment. After the widescreen energy of “Fast Life”, the three tracks following arrive as a total surprise, but not so much if you consider the artist’s history. There’s plenty of colour in this 12″, and enough to keep you guessing even across just four tracks.
As for what’s next on Touch From A Distance, Höppner is keeping quiet: “A Berlin-based project. Keep your eyes and ears peeled!” And if you wondered about the severed pinky in the label’s logo, it represents the boss’s own reality, having lost a finger at camp as a nine-year-old. “I wanted the logo to both represent the label name and my personal involvement.”
Desert Sound Colony – Fast Life is out now and available here.