Kölsch: Master of Melodic

Friday, Sep 15, 2023

Few artists have impacted tech house more in the past decade than Kölsch. In particular, his partnership with Kompakt paved the way for the more melodic side of tech to become the global phenomenon it is today.

Born Rune Reilly Kölsch, the half-German, half-Irish Dane grew up in the Copenhagen separatist counter-cultural community of Christiania. A self-proclaimed unconventional childhood led to him writing and producing music from a very early age, first as a drummer in bands and then on the Amiga 500 computer his mother bought him to do his homework on.

Originally drawn to electro and hip hop, he progressed to breakbeats and house music before finding techno in the early 90s rave scene. His first experience of DJing would come as young as 11 when he would perform in the basement of a youth club in Copenhagen. The same Amiga 500 would be put to good use creating his first three releases from 1995 - 1998.

By 1999, Rune made his first trip to Ibiza and was mesmerised by the scene, and has attributed his love of melodies to the balearic music he encountered there. During this period, Rune would spend up to 12 hours a day in the studio and would frequently be sitting on over 150 tracks.

Rune would collaborate with his brother Johannes Torpe on several electronic projects, including Artificial Funk, Fashion Victims and Heavy Rock, however it was during this period that Rune would have his first big breakout as a solo artist, releasing “Calabria” under the alias Rune RK and later Enur.

This track has taken on a life of its own, being sampled and remixed by everyone from Alex Gaudino to Nathan Dawe. Despite being an international hit, it would still be several years before Rune became an established artist.

A turning point came when Kompakt Records boss Michael Mayer listened to a record by Rune’s Needle and Ink alias. The two decided to meet in the studio, and from this came Dogma 1 and Dogma 2. It was Mayer who convinced Rune to use his surname, Kölsch, as his artist name.

The relationship with Kompkat would birth a trilogy of autobiographical full-length studio albums, beginning in 2013 with the debut Kölsch album 1977. A deeply personal work, every track on the album was inspired by childhood memories with “Opa” about his grandfather and “Der Alte”, a cherished German TV detective show he would watch as a child.

This focus on melody and romanticism within a techno framework was a huge hit, and 1977 spawned several club and crossover hits, along with “Opa” and “Der Alte”, “Goldfisch”, “Loreley” and the emotional anthem “All That Matters”, took Kölsch’s career to the next level.

As Kölsch’s star rose, his heavy touring schedule meant that 12-hour days in the studio became a thing of the past, and he needed to create music when and where he could. Adopting a new strategy, he followed the mantra: if an idea didn’t work in 30 minutes, abandon it and move on.

This strict work ethic proved incredibly fruitful as Kölsch would release his biggest tracks to date, including the stadium-sized anthem “Grey”. The autobiographical album trilogy completed with 2015’s ,1983 and 2017’s 1989.

In 2020 Kölsch would release Now Here No Where, his last album to date on Kompakt’s main label, with 2021’s follow-up Isopolis dropping on his own Ipso imprint. Ipso had traditionally been a home for Kölsch’s collaborative projects with Michael Mayer before expanding to include collabs with Tiga, Sasha and Dubfire.

With such an impressive body of work, Kölsch is in constant demand for shows around the world. In 2018, he memorably performed on top of the Eiffel Tower. After falling in love with the island in 1999, Kölsch has never been far from Ibiza’s shores. He began playing for ANTS in our first year, back in 2013 and has been a regular fixture and Colony favourite ever since.

As part of ANTS 10 YEARS STRONG, he’ll be going B2B with another ANTS cornerstone, Joris Voorn, at Ushuaïa Ibiza on Saturday 16th September. Get tickets and browse lineups and our events calendar on the button below.