Review: Hauschka – Salon des Amateurs

If you’re anything like me (and if you’re not, why are you reading this?) then you’ve probably heard quite a lot of music in your time. So much music in fact, that even during your self-imposed quest to explore the furthest reaches of musical oddness and originality you’ll more often than not find yourself listening to something which is, at best, a new twist on a tried and tested formula.

So imagine my delight, dear reader, when I stuck on my headphones and prepared to acquaint myself for the first time with Salon des Amateurs, an album of prepared piano pieces* (augmented by occasional strings, horns and percussion) inspired by German minimalist techno and house music.

It’s probably fair to say I am an expert in neither of these fields, so in that respect this review is coming from a place of deep, unabashed ignorance. Indeed, the more repetitive and, for want of a better word, dancey end of electronic dance music generally leaves me cold. I am at a loss, therefore, to explain why I should find Hauschka’s (the musical alias of pianist/composer Volker Bertelmann**) acoustic/orchestral take on the genre so utterly compelling. Why should it be that the kind of composition I find so tedious when rendered with drum loops and synths miraculously becomes something I could listen to all day when played with drum kit, miscellaneous orchestral instruments and a dicked-about-with piano. Is it the incongruity, perhaps? I doubt it. The novelty ought to wear off by about the third track if this were the case, but every time I spin this album I’m hooked to the very last note. Is it mere snobbishness? I sincerely hope not (though I can’t in all honesty rule it out – I am a tosser, after all).

I like to think, however, there is something about the warm plinkity-plonk of Hauschka’s piano which transforms these simple, repetitive refrains into something completely new. As such, it is a unique, refreshing and frankly indescribable listening experience. It is also, in all probability, a complete one-off. Sadly, Hauschka has not invented a new genre here. He has, however, found a fascinating little musical cul-de-sac, one which is an absolute joy to follow him down for forty minutes or so.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prepared_piano

**Why anyone with a name so blatantly awesome as Volker Bertelmann should feel the need to adopt a pseudonym is quite beyond me.

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