20
Jan
09

The Soundtrack to Daydreams: Hauschka’s Ferndorf and Snowflakes and Carwrecks

Released last October, Ferndorf, the fourth album by German artist Hauschka (real name: Volker Bertelmann) is a stunning piece of instrumental music, and he is following it up by releasing a new EP entitled Snowflakes and Carwrecks on February 3. Using the idea of “prepared piano” (meaning he often attaches different objects, like beer bottles, leather, guitar strings and phone cords, to the innards of his piano to achieve different sounds), Hauschka recalls the experimental flavour of artists like John Cage and Erik Satie. However, having only listened to this album and EP of his, I don’t feel that Hauschka is particularly inaccessibly experimental; instead, he weaves unexpected tones and sounds into classical piano framework. In a way, he reminds me of a stripped-down, avant-garde version of Bardi Johannsson. This album, a tribute to Hauschka’s home, is an emotionally moving set of classically-based tracks in which the narrator seems to speak through a dialogue between the voice of the piano and voices of the string duo. Then there are times when all the instruments seem to speak at once in a transcendent cacophony. At times urgent and breathless, at other times jubilant and carnivalesque, and at yet other times pensive and brooding, Ferndorf (which translates as “distant village”) is a meditation on Hauschka’s home village in rural Germany. The latest EP is a beautiful extension of Hauschka’s childhood memories, and it becomes evident how difficult it must have been to choose only twelve tracks for the original full album.

Ferndorf begins with Blue Bicycle, a track with insistent piano that mimicks pumping legs on bicycle pedals, complementary strings that slice across like shafts of sunlight, and less readily identifiable sounds that at times sound like gravel beneath tires and a ringing bicycle bell; it’s a fantastically exhilarating song that flies along with as much energy and imagination as Yann Tiersen’s work for Amelie. This is followed by the more sober Morgenrot, which uses the lower register of the cello as a gentle cradle for the higher, lingering tones of the piano as the whole piece sways and tiptoes about like a ballerina dancing at dawn. Rode Null then comes in with a propulsive, percussive bass sound and more unidentifiable clacks and clinks before the violin comes in with a staccato style; soon after, more strings join in until there is a wonderfully intricate interplay between the piano, strings and rhythmic accents, dodging gracefully under and over each other with pastoral precision like the ribbons on a May pole. Freibad, named for the outdoor swimming pools/lakes that are common in Germany, engages the lower register again as an almost grinding patience before the song becomes more urgent and whimiscal with what sounds like muted brass and scurrying scratches of sound – this is no breezy ride as in Blue Bicycle. You can feel the excitement and need of youth in every bar. With its percussive pluckings and scattered plinks, Barfuss Durch Gras is indeed evocative of skipping barefoot through the whistling grass while Heimat soothes ginger footfalls with gentle piano as smooth as cursive writing and a promise of the familiarity of home.

The darkness of an evergreen wood creeps in with Nadelwald and its swathes of lower strings and flickering piano like constantly shifting bits of dappled light hitting the forest floor; you can imagine the forest being both a verdant refuge and an unknowable entity. The mood changes again with Schönes Mädchen and its almost Asian flavour of percussive, staccato sounds underneath the unfurling of expansive strings; you can feel a sweet freedom pouring into your lungs and swirling around your limbs like dewy fog. Eltern, which is the first song to be featured in an animated music video triptych by Overture and can be watched here, is a dreamy, mournful piece with a crackling backdrop of miscellaneous rattles and clinks that almost feels like mental static; the song feels both solemn and comforting perhaps in the way all parents do. Alma continues the dreamy atmosphere, but it also features some beautiful slides and hesitant syncopation, which provide an undulating movement to the music like an inquistive child negotiating a natural landscape for the first time. As gentle as the new snow it references, Neuschnee floats on buoyant puffs of violin and soft drifts of piano. The album concludes with Weeks of Rain, a mysterious track with little flourishes that interrupt the piano until erupting into a golden quivering that envelopes and enhances the metallic sound of the keys.


For Snowflakes and Carwrecks, Hauschka is releasing previously unreleased pieces from the Ferndorf sessions, featuring three much longer tracks than anything on Ferndorf. Opening track, Ginsterweg, is more persistent piano that steals your breath away like an overwhelming, heady wind and spins about you like a miniature tornado. Then the light tinkling of Eisblume comes in with its tentative fragility pushing its way from the depths of the cello; you can imagine a delicate mountain bloom unfurling under ice droplets that are as perfectly formed as tears. The staccato style returns with Wonder and its gleeful bobbing and skipping akin to a joyful folk dance leading into the statelier, nine-minute Tanz, which uses harsher strings and metallic vibrations to create an elegant vignette of dignifed beauty before whirling into a jaunty second half of frenzied, complex rhythms appropriate for a gypsy. The energy level comes down again for Kindelsberg, a haunting piece littered with pauses like tantalizing ripened fruit ready to drop from the tree while Hauberg uses more staccato plinking and flowing, romantic strings to weave an exotic fairy tale of a song. The final track, Tagtraum, is a deliciously hazy song featuring small hiccups of sound over a mesmerizing backdrop – it’s like finding yourself in a mirror world, which while reflecting and appearing as the real world, also carries unusual glitches that disturb its tranquil surface.

Visit FatCat Records to purchase Ferndorf and to pre-order Snowflakes and Carwrecks (with stunning cover art like this, physical copies would be a treasure). You can also read a recent Pitchfork interview with Hauschka here. Both Ferndorf and Snowflakes and Carwrecks are stunning musical concepts that wipe the windows of the world with nostalgia, taking bleary-eyed memories and polishing them with the very fabric of dreams. The ebb and flow of distance and immediacy lulls you into a sweet hypnosis of reminiscence. Hauschka’s music is like skipping stones in the pools of your childhood memories, providing the soundtrack to daydreams.

Blue Bicycle – Hauschka

Eltern – Hauschka

Tanz – Hauschka

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

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Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

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Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

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There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

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Johnny Boy

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Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

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Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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