Jas Shaw, half of dance duo Simian Mobile Disco, has released a new EP called Sollbruchstelle I: Become the Scenic Route. It’s the first of a three-part EP series, set to be joined by Sollbruchstelle II: Absent And Incorrect on March 26 and Sollbruchstelle III: Snacks Of Carelessness on April 23. Sollbruchstelle I – III will all be released together as a full album on May 7.
The three EPs are a continuation of the same sound and idea, but Shaw chose to release the full LP in segments so each one “can be used for a digestible short nod out of this ragged situation for a bit.” The tracks are all electroacoustic ambient pieces with a bit of a meditative new age lightness, minimalist in composition. The press release compares them to the works of artists like Gigi Masin, Harold Budd, Raymond Scott, Global Communication, Laraaji, Mika Vainio and Múm.
Shaw was diagnosed with a rare cell disease called AL Amyloidosis in 2018, so he’s been extra careful about avoiding exposure to COVID-19. Sollbruchstelle I – III comes out of his experience of prolonged isolation. The music was meant to capture the space of the rooms he’s quarantined in and has also served him well as an escapist environment to immerse himself in while unable to physically get away from his home. “All records are a document of their time, but in this case, it was quite literal,” He states via press release.
To recreate the spatial dimensionality of the room, Shaw decided to use a setup that “both is and isn’t acoustic.” He clarifies, “There are no actual instruments being played, but electronic noises were recorded as if live instruments and a piano was used as an ‘unplugged’ amplifier/effects unit.”
Going more into detail, he continues, “I made a system where I could play the synth sounds and send them to Exciters, which are small flat speakers without a cone that you fix onto a surface, which effectively then becomes part of the speaker itself. I attached the Exciter to the soundboard of my piano, which gave natural amplification and added the instrument’s acoustics – all of which was then recorded through various microphones in different positions. It was very Heath Robinson.”
Shaw hopes the use of space will resonate with others as well, “What makes this a more interesting prospect, trying to step outside my situation, is how everyone has had to isolate. I expect that others have become very familiar with, comfortable in, and tired of a few rooms. It’s difficult to tell from in here, but as well as capturing the aural qualities and demeanour of my environs, it felt like it probably matched the conditions outside too.”
As for the name, “Sollbruchstelle means ‘breaking point’ in German,” Shaw explains. “Either where something likely to break (a person, or society as a whole for instance), or where something is intended to break (like the indentations on a bar of chocolate). It’s got a kind of built in mixture of sadness and hope, which I found an appealing concept.”
In June 2020, Shaw put out a full-length with Bas Grossfeldt called Klavier, a mix of piano minimalism and techno. Turning to Simian Mobile Disco, their last album was 2018’s Murmurations. It was their seventh studio record together since Shaw and James Ford formed the act in 2005.
Album artwork for the EPs were “Arcs” made by musician/artist Leafcutter John.