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Hauschka - Foreign Landscapes

  by Mark Rowland

published: 17 / 12 / 2010

Hauschka - Foreign Landscapes
Label: 130701
Format: CD


Restless-sounding concept album about travelling and cities on latest album from Hauschka, the project of experimental pianist Volker Bertelmann

Volker Bertelmann’s compositions have traditionally been focused around the ‘prepared piano’ a technique that involves putting objects inside a piano in order to alter its sound. It is a method that’s not unique to Bertelmann and his Hauschka alias – composers such as John Cage and early 20th century Dadaist composers such as Erik Satie were exploring the method long before him. What Bertelmann brings to the table is a sense of fun and childishness that the average person would not associate with modern classical music. At a Hauschka performance, people can expect all manner of things to be chucked into a piano; bottle tops, gaffa tape, you name it – at one memorable performance, he filled a piano with ping pong balls, which gave the piano a muted, plucked sound and sent the balls flying every time he played a note. ‘Foreign Landscapes’, an ode to travelling and cities around the world, is darker and colder than previous album ‘Ferndorf’, about Bertelmann’s childhood and rural Germany. It is also more densely orchestrated, featuring strings, woodwind and brass as well as Bertelmann’s prepared piano. Opener ‘Alexanderplatz’ is a pretty, jaunty tune, with fairly staccato strings and muted piano, with bursts of woodwind and horns. ‘Iron Shoes’ is more downbeat, but busy, an effective recreation of bustling city streets. ‘Madeira’ is similar, a repeated motif building and falling, with woodwind and brass adding texture. The standout tracks on the album are the stripped back piano tracks: ‘Mount Hood’, ‘Early in the Park’ and ‘Kouseiji’. This is in part due to the fact that piano compositions are well within Bertelmann’s comfort zone, and it’s partly because they stand out because they are so different in arrangement to the rest of the album. But it’s also because the tracks are a little more emotionally direct, with elements of Romantic era piano works and a sweetness and warmth you don’t always get from the fuller tracks. Then again, that’s not the point of the record; Bertelmann is trying to recreate his busy, urban touring life with this music, and in that he succeeds. The restless melodies and arrangements here may seem impenetrable to some on first listen, but persistence opens them up.

Track Listing:-
1 Alexanderplatz
2 Iron Shoes
3 Mount Hood
4 Madeira
5 Union Square
6 Early In The Park
7 Snow
8 Kamogawa
9 Children
10 Sunny Mission
11 Kouseiji
12 Trost

Have a Listen:-

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