Hunee‘s cooking up a summer classic
Hun Choi is one of dance music’s most likeable characters.
Both his sets and productions as Hunee exude warmth and elegance. He’s perpetually smiling and dancing in the booth as he plays out his elongated sets that dish out generous servings of the finest in all spheres of dance. Choi’s style may fluctuate wildly, but his passion for the party is always contagious.
This characteristic, one that initially accelerated the house and disco maven’s word of mouth success, has now secured Choi’s standing as a beloved member of the dance music community. Though this alluring quality is in part down to a deep knowledge of groove and a thirst for a good party, it’s also down to his outlook: the profound enjoyment of the sociality that dance music culture develops is central to Choi’s relationship with his work.
From his visual enthusiasm at gigs to the love of his adopted hometown Amsterdam, Choi operates best in the midst of a vibrant community. Talking to him about his time in Berlin, for example, where he moved at 19 after growing up in Bochum, West Germany, Choi is keen to stress the central motivation for his move. “The most important thing for me about Berlin was meeting all these different types of people,” Choi explains. “In the end, it comes down to the people that I met, the experiences that I shared with them, and the things they taught me about club culture.”
This outlook, based on the rewards of human interaction, powers Choi’s activities as DJ and producer. It even seeps intohis own work as a promoter, throwing sporadic events during his time in Berlin. “The whole experience of a party is what interested us. We wanted to build a relationship to every aspect in the space,” he explains. “From who would be the door guy, to what friend of ours would have the right vibe to do the tickets at the entry. We would do little games at the entrance – once we put out 1000 balloons.”
Now currently based in Amsterdam after nine months living in LA, Choi was lent a studio space by charismatic local DJ San Proper in the summer of last year. Neighbouring some of the city’s most respected local artists, the hub was a catalyst for his recent return to production after a four-year break. “I was part of an environment with a lot of different people that I respected,” he explains. “Just having these friends around, I don’t think I could have done it without them.”
It was here that Choi made his forthcoming debut album Hunch Music. Typical of his omnivorous tastes, it’s an ebullient mélange of tribal drum patterns, warped vocal samples and fluttering strings. While a lot of his previous work sits at the intersection of house and disco, Hunch Music fuses the physicality of dance music with an enchanting, abstract and most importantly, human depth.
Existing outside of strict dancefloor conventions, the album is inspired by recordings collected by the likes of Sublime Frequencies and Numero Group, labels dedicated to exposing obscure sounds from urban and rural frontiers. “There are these almost ethnomusicological approaches to field recordings where they go out to the Sahara region or some remote place and record people,” Choi tells me. “I was fascinated by these records because they were functional by completely different terms: it would be ritual music, or some musicians would go out into the mountains and play for themselves, without an audience, without a recording even. I was really intrigued by that because our musical world is so functional, I’m slightly allergic to it.”
"I make music as if I was alone in this world. Just for me"
Choi’s ear for subverted functionality is evident in his ability to get a crowd moving with techno that gratifies with inventive weirdness and curious, offbeat disco alike. It is also in this contradiction that Choi found inspiration, and set about operating on his own terms. “I needed that liberation, this mental model to not pressure myself with things. So I envisioned how would I make this music if I could just make music for myself. As if I was alone in this world. I didn’t think about how this could work or what I would need as an addition for the ‘album’. I made it just for me.”
This introspective approach results in a rich musical journey. Brimming with character, Hunch Music’s rhythmically inventive production forges a style of its own. Its confounding collage should come as no surprise at this point, though, as Choi has never let himself be guided or swayed by dance music tropes. “I always strive to make work as close and as honest to my life as possible,” Choi confesses. “I wanted to make a really human album. There are a lot of little mistakes in there. When I played it to friends they were like ‘but you still have to edit this!’ But I would never edit these things. I consciously tried to make things more loose and a bit more free flow.
Speaking to Choi, it’s clear that he’s not only benefitting from a prosperous return to the studio, but a refreshed outlook on his motivations within music. The move to Amsterdam has allowed for reflection on his philosophy, one that expands on his humanistic approach while offering a renewed vitality for his craft.
“Before I saw music as just what I do on the side,” he admits. “But now I get up and I DJ and I do what I need to do for my work. Not necessarily seeing it as your work, as the way you make money, even though it is, but it’s also your work in terms of realising yourself as a person. That’s how I see it now. That’s how I want to grow as a person, in music.”
Hunch Music is out now via Rush Hour Records. Catch Hunee at Simple Things Festival this year.