A Brief Recovery
Ambient electronica is Germany’s most precious export, next to beer and chocolate. It must be something about the lush green fields and vibrant mountain landscapes that helps to produce great musicians. Or maybe there is something in the beer.
The thing about great musicians is that they almost always have been producing music their entire lives. Deutschland native, Ulrich Schnauss, has produced 25 albums since his teens. You may be more familiar with his pseudonyms, Ethereal 77, View to the Future, Hair, or any number of his many collaborations. Clearly, Ulrich’s most precious export is ambient electronica as well.
Schnauss’ 25th studio album, A Long Way to Fall, begins with the intro track, “Her and the Sea,” which combines a fast, trance-esque tempo with a similar melody in half time, creating a hypnotically beautiful score. The following track, “Broken Homes,” reverses this algorithm, bringing the slower tempo to the forefront with a double-time harmony carefully tucked into the background.
The sumptuously rich and hauntingly poppy progressive synth layers on “Like A Ghost in Your Own Life” evolve throughout the song’s nearly 6 minute lifespan, almost as though it is telling a story through its electronic instrumentals. The title track continues this trend of non-verbal storytelling with a much more sedated range of downtempo synth layers.
On “I Take Comfort in Your Ignorance,” Schnauss turns up the distortion, giving those lead synths a little crunch before they are lost in the sea of an ever increasing amount of progressive layers. While careful listeners may be able to isolate individual harmonies from this electronic cacophony, the song can very quickly become convoluted and devolve into nothing more than a barrage of noise. This process of adding one or two too many layers occurs sparsely on songs throughout the album and could be a deterrent to some listeners.
For fans of ambient electronica, it doesn’t get much better than Ulrich Schnauss, and A Long Way to Fall is the height of his career producing such music. It’s playful, chill, it’s and thought-provoking all at once. In Germany, it’s almost like the ambientwave scene never lost momentum.