Sunday, 4 March 2012

Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters - Underrated Silence

Shoegaze isn't particularly the first genre that pops to mind when the question regarding what usually fits alongside contemporary electronic music nowadays, is asked. But Ulrich Schnauss, the german-born marvel of relaxing chillout and intrigate downtempo'd beats, has paved quite the yellow-brick-esque road for shoegaze-driven atmospheres. 'Goodbye', his most crucial and successful fusion of these sub-genres of both rock and electronic, was an immediate provence of his skill as both a musician and a producer.

Here, together with fellow producer/musician Mark Peters, Schnauss has ventured instead into more ambient proving grounds with this, his first major partnership, 'Underrated Silence' - the name itself suggesting beforehand maybe, that this is not so much a step back in volume, but a unravelling of the multitude of layers the two have built up over their varied careers.

Not the case, however. 'The Messiah Is Falling', the album's supposed introductory piece delicately leads us in with a gentle arpeggiated picking of acoustics and brightly-glowing electronics. It's a simple lead-in and just-as-simple a continuation throughout, but it demonstrates the duo's contrast of direction from their previous catalogues. Such is the case with 'Long Distance Call' which continues this approach. There is little evidence of transgression and overall progression. Rather this pairing of instrumental deliverances feel almost demo-ish and half-finished.

It's not until we get to 'Yesterday Didn't Exist' that the music becomes reminiscent of these artist's previous work. A crunchy crinkling of percussion rummages through the weightless picks of keys and wavering synthesizers. Such is the case with follower 'Rosen Im Asphalt' - the album at this point, finally showing signs of some much-needed revitalization, even if this revival is partially limited to a progressive (and somewhat carefully-treading) rise of a foggy electronics. The acoustic aesthetic, however, remains at the epicenter and while this isn't entirely a bad thing, it's the range and deliverance of this instrumentation that feels somewhat flat and overused.

'Ekaterina' does give us a consolable relief. The acoustics here feel multiple in content, but with it brings this gentle and warm vibe that creates a welcoming environment for the rest of its composition to travel across. Likewise with 'Gift Horse's Mouth', where the focus instead is on that of the beats and rhythm. The clicking and clanking of the electronics reach out into the field of 'catchiness' and for an album soaked in this absorbing of acoustics and analog electronics, the upbeat nature of this track is not only welcoming, it's exhilarating to listen to as well. Only during the latter half does the composition of this uptempo enthrallment truly come to life, a sense of liberation from this safe-guard of strings and synths.

The album's closer meanwhile - the self-titled track just a shade under seven minutes - is somewhat formulaic in summarizing the album's previous catalogue of rehashing acoustics and appliance of delay-and-echo effects. The string choice does give us some interesting sounds though - enhanced by said delays in its deliverance - but for a seven minute composition, it comes off as a tad overused and bloated. There is hardly any transgression between sounds here and, because of this, the tracks feels anti-climatic and unfulfilling.

But this is a theme that, unfortunately, runs thick through the majority of the album. No one can deny 'Underrated Silence' succeeds in its production value and its choice of deciding where the instrumentation and the accompany effects lay in its ten mixtures of acoustics and electronics alike. But even Schnauss' & Peter's expertise in this field can not pave over the cracks this album is jotted with. Decisiveness in experimenting with different sounds is one thing. Making sure it succeeds in both intrigue and, more importantly, variety, is another matter altogether.


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