|‘I am OK’, reads the title of the new album by the Berlin-based producer, DJ and label-owner Oliver Koletzki. The heading0’s ambiguity is, of course, deliberate: there’s a deeper meaning hidden behind the humorous facade that is Chrisse Kunst’s hand-drawn cover, which depicts an unadorned thirteen-year-old Oliver sporting nerd glasses and a striped jumper: I am Oliver Koletzki, raw and authentic. Because musically, on his fifth studio album, Oliver Koletzki looks towards the unaffected freshness of back in the day, and thus, consciously returns to his roots.
The nine years that follow his breakthrough with ‘Der Mückenschwarm’, which was released in 2005 on Sven Väth’s legendary Cocoon imprint, see Oliver travel to 211 cities in 39 countries. Next to the world’s most renowned clubs, he plays the large festival stages at Timewarp, Rock am Ring, Rainbow Serpent or MELT!. During the week, however, he’s locked in his studio. Thus, the successful long-players ‘Großstadtmärchen’ (2009) and ‘Großstadtmärchen 2’ (2012), as well as his debut ‘Get Wasted’ (2007), and ‘Lovestoned’ (2010), a collaborative effort with the singer Fran, are born.
Simultaneously, Oliver Koletzki’s label Stil vor Talent has been setting new trends in electronic music since 2006 as it has evolved into a stepping-stone for hot newcomer talents. Whether it’s the discovery of David August, Sascha Braemer or HVOB: Oliver’s knack as an A&R is almost uncanny. He does, however, always remain faithful to his penchant for melodic and emotional house music. Over the course of eight years, Stil vor Talent thus grew from a small DIY-operation into a large independent label with an attached booking agency and fashion branch. In 2012, Oliver Koletzki founds a second label, Light my Fire, which is focused solely on the dance-floor.
Similar to his philosophy as the head of two labels, the songs on ‘I am OK’ exemplify the effortless balancing act that has become a Koletzki-trademark: a breath-taking symbiosis of groove and melody. After the more pop-oriented long-players of recent years, Oliver returns to the club, without every losing sight of his unique musicality, of course. Throughout its 13 tracks and eight collaborations, we encounter music for festival stages, basement venues, and radio stations alike. Nods to elevating disco, old-school hip-hop, electronic broken-beat, smooth soul, UK garage, dub techno, mellow deep house, and clever electro-pop merge within a beautifully produced house music framework.
Things kick off with a bang – ‘Gravity’. Best known for the chart-topping Materia / Miss Platnum collaboration ‘Lila Wolken’, the Berliner Yasha lends his inviting voice to an electrifying explosion of torrential rolling bleeps, fat bass-lines and subtle guitar licks, weaved into an instantly addictive result by Oliver. Next up, NÖRD’s Leo Eisenach delivers emotional vocals on ‘After All’, which float through Oliver Koletzki’s tight arrangement of heavy electronica beats, areal synths, creaking bass and nostalgic piano keys. ‘Up in the Air’ featuring Fran takes a more organic approach, as it picks up where everyone’s favourite ‘Hypnotized’ left off: feel-good sunshine boogie led by Fran’s extraordinarily iconic voice. Summer is on its way!
A fact that is further emphasised by the following track, ‘Bring Me Home’. Helped along by a swaying groove, melancholic pads and soft piano melodies, this is an ode to the open-air season and all of its tender promises. Aided by German starlet Leslie Clio, Oliver Koletzki combines his love for 80s synthesizers with a satisfying bounce and the slightest hint of an Italo-bass-line on the stunning ‘No Man No Cry’. Oliver and HRRSN then impress on ‘So Wrong’, as the latter’s warm vocal chords and falsetto peaks compliment the former’s piano- and guitar-driven funk instrumental, turning the album’s sixth tracks into another stand-out.
After a hip-hop breather, which offers itself in the form of the deliciously old-school ‘Hommage’ to Oliver’s hometown of Brunswick together with local rap-legend MC Rene, ‘I am OK’ takes another turn towards the floor. On ‘Parachute’, Oliver teams-up with SUOL darling Meggy, whose recognizable vox is backed by a stepping garage groove, accentuated by bright chords and enveloping bass drops. The following track, ‘This Love’, offers similar UK-vibes, yet swaps the full vocal against chopped-up samples: an energetic peak-time tool for the up-to-date DJ. With ‘Streetknowledge’, the album’s most club-ready segment climaxes, as Oliver surprises with Basic Channel-esque dub techno chords that glide through a maze of tough bass-lines and razor-sharp percussion.
Many a Stil vor Talent fan’s heart will no doubt skip a beat in anticipation of the collaboration between HVOB and Oliver Koletzki. On ‘Bones’, the pairing proofs to be a match made in heaven as Anna Müller’s inimitable voice gets it’s most energetic outing to-date due to a trance-inducing progressive house foundation courtesy of Oliver. Thunder then introduces the penultimate track, ‘Too Soon’ featuring NÖRD, which bedazzles with its cinematic scope, epic synth melodies and heartache lyrics. Lastly, the echoing piano rolls and spoken-word of ‘Reality’ bid a gentle farewell, as Oliver quite literally walks us out of his unique musical world.
‘I am OK’ – Oliver Koletzki says modestly. In 2014, after 26 years as a musician, he clearly achieved what he set out to do. And his fifth album serves as testimony. Hypothetically he could have a bit of a rest. The energy of each new track here does emphasise, however, that he won’t retire any time soon: Oliver Koletzki is just getting started.