Nick Höppner has just revealed the first single from his forthcoming LP, Folk, so we took the opportunity to reveal our print review of Steffi’s The Power of Anonymity.
Panorama Bar and Ostgut Ton honcho Nick Höppner has just revealed the first single from his forthcoming LP, Folk. “Rising Overheads,” which you can hear below, channels the hypnotic and enveloping ambiance that makes Höppner’s DJ sets so powerful. We’re planning to celebrate his prowess as a selector with a Played Out feature in the next issue of Electronic Beats Magazine, in which our favorite DJs describe a three-track sequence they might play in a set and how the tracks go together—the inaugural column starred Janus collective member KABLAM. While we wait for the release of Folk and the next issue of Electronic Beats Magazine, we’ve taken the time to look back on last issue and the preceding album from Ostgut Ton, which was made by fellow Panorama Bar stalwart Steffi. We covered the reveal of the title track from that album, The Power of Anonymity, here.
Dance music producers often defy genre in principle but submit to it in practice. That’s not to say that all contemporary dance music sucks, but it can be hard to tell the difference between the derivative and the fresh. Producers face the challenge of balancing their innovative impulses with the specific and conservative demands of genre and context. Historically however, artists were viewed as special figures distinct from mere mortals, and it’s hard to reconcile this model with the production practice of house, techno, or electro producers whose identities can be diffuse and abstract. Now that dancefloor-oriented styles have entered a middle age where the parameters are set and the expectations are known, how does a producer make something special?
Steffi Doms is hardly an anonymous figure in modern house and techno circles. Yet the way she pulls the strings on her new album calls to mind an unseen puppeteer, manipulating inert objects into recognizable human forms. Doms draws from the bedrock of classic electro and house, yet the pieces are put into motion in just a way that we end up with something seductive. In her music, production becomes a matter of minute gestures. Of course, injecting animate life into weary tropes is difficult, especially from behind a cloud of anonymity. Sensitivity to stylistic nuance and a real world appreciation of what works on the dancefloor are key to making dance music more than an exercise. Doms has that in spades.
In that sense, Power of Anonymity is potent in its simplicity. An arsenal of analogue machines trace out generic guidelines drawn decades ago in Detroit and Chicago, but the music in no way feels like fetishism. Doms follows the prescriptions of history but not merely for their own sake. On “Pip” she pulls off loud and resonant electro with grace and finesse, before diving headlong into strutting synth pop with regular collaborators Dexter and Virginia on “Treasure Seeking.” These stylistic poles eventually form a larger pattern, fitting seamlessly with musical moods you’ll recognize but perhaps find hard to place.
Part of the pleasure you get in watching a puppet show is forgetting the human hands pulling the strings; Power of Anonymity gets you to focus on what’s actually happening in front of you rather than the guiding sensibility behind it. It sucks in the listener with an infectious sense of wonder that doesn’t feel tied to any particular time, genre or city. And still, the musical links are clear as day. As a whole, Power of Anonymity is strangely subversive in its ability to make you hear it on its own terms.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014/2015 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine. To read more from this issue, click here.
Published February 10, 2015. Words by marksmith.