It was almost a year ago that I first discovered the Hamburg-based label Nachtamt. I was browsing online when I encountered a preview for what was at the time their latest EP. I was immediately enthralled by the pulsating bass and mesmerising soundscape of Neal White - Cistern (Nachtamt #002).
Since that day, I would go as far to say it has become one of my favourite tracks. As a DJ and overall music-digger - I felt obliged to track down a copy of this sublime record for myself and find out more about the label producing such a unique sound.
Originally from Schwerin, the “Owls” are dedicated to being “a guidance in the times of rapid digital evolution” and they aim to “signify diversity, inclusion and transparency.”
The label has been throwing parties since the turn of the millennium, and their two-decades in the industry are well reflected by their holistic approach to production. Their timeless style encompasses a broad variety of eras, moods and sub-genres.
After speaking with them, I was overjoyed to hear that not only were they digitising their back-catalogue, but Nachtamt #003 was coming out soon.
Now that I have had a chance to enjoy it all, I thought I would reflect on their first three EPs.
A1 Swarsa - Nothing Quit
B1 Swarsa - Captain Beep
B2 Noone - Großer Dreesch
What I like most about Swarsa's two productions on this EP is the transitional contrast of deep tones with warmer uplifting synth elements.
Nothing Quit (A1) infuses a bouncing sub-bass melody with a slightly swinging hi-hat progression and an entrancing ambience. This is followed by the etherial Captain Beep (B1) which weaves intricate percussive parts, hypnotic gated vocal loops and punctuated synth stabs to great effect.
#001 concludes with Großer Dreesch (B2) - characterised by its rolling synth parts, tripped out soundscape and sibilant hi-hat sequence. Whilst minimal in its nature, this song could carry as much impact in an after-hour techno set as it would within a more minimal selection.
A1 Neal White - Still 1999
A2 Neal White - Cistern
B1 Neal White - Spulimander
B2 Neal White - Minibaukasten
Being my first interaction with Nachtamt, this release left a lasting impression on me. It begins with Still 1999 (A1) - a combination of metallic sweeps and glitches, celestial vocal cuts, and a beefy, raw kick drum progression. Perhaps in a nod to the label’s German origins, this track is reminiscent of the fledgling 90’s minimal scene which was so heavily influenced by the underground techno movement.
Neal White moves from strength to strength on this EP, with Cistern (A2) being one of my all-time favourite tracks. The track compounds its dub-driven bassline, ominous soundscape, and its intricately developed hi-hat percussive parts to great effect.
The wax’s B-side first features the bewitching Spulimander (B1) - defined by its jazzy cuts, enthralling synth melodies and complex percussive patterns. This track stylistically reconciles elements of percussive techno with a more groove-oriented minimal application of its bass melody and hi-hats.
This stellar record concludes with Minibaukasten (B2) - which embodies greater swing to its percussion than from its predecessors. The mood from this track is largely generated by its blend of its reverb-heavy kick drums, melodic pads, and the alternation of decay on the striking hi-hats.
A1 Noone - Digital Observation
B1 Noone - Brexit
B2 Brexit for noone - Andre Kronert Rmx
This eagerly anticipated new EP was well worth the wait. Noone’s return to Nachtamt begins with the astronomical Digital Observation (A1), a mind-bending amalgam of pounding kick drums, oscillating synth stabs and industrious hi-hats. The surging bassline at moments develops an acid-house like quality to it, at times subduing to make way for gritty soundscape.
The topically named Brexit (B1) spans a dubby bassline, a techno oriented percussive sequence, deep pads, melodic bleeps and glitches. This track is a continuation from Digital Observation’s stylistic use of aural texture to convey atmosphere and mood.
At 128 BPM, Andre Kronert’s Brexit for noone (B2) is a heavyweight remix of the EP’s B1. Portraying the same atmospheric mood, this remix substitutes the dubby bassline of Brexit (B1) for a hard-hitting kick drum progression to create an aural quality reminiscent of an after-hours warehouse party.
Nachtamt’s third EP embodies the same grainy texture, contrasting transitions in mood and tone, and intricate percussive sequences that are becoming the trademark of Nachtamt as a label. This nuanced and politically-minded release is a continuance of the precedent of excellence set by #001 and #002. Perhaps the most experimental of their work to date - Nachtamt #003’s exploration of varying tempos and moods has created an EP with versatile application for both DJ selectors and listeners at home.
All of Nachtamt’s music is available to buy or download here: