Ulrich Schnauss wants us all to dream a little more in 2012. The London-based electronica wizard who originally hails from Kielin Germanyreleases his eagerly-awaited 4th solo A Long Way To Fallin April, but has in the meantime gifted us with an album of otherworldly soundscapes with fellow traveller Mark Peters from Engineers. One of the great musical enablers of our times, Schnauss realized his overarching vision to combine shoegaze with a classic German tech sensibility on Goodbye , but is also known for his work with other artists like Britpop band Longview, and most recently, of course, for joining the shoegazey/dreampop Engineers. On their 2010 album In Praise Of More you’d hardly notice he was there as they toned down the bombast and gave the songs room to breathe. His mastery lies in keeping the creative juices flowing by being a part of things without getting in their way, so you can easily tell a Schnauss remix – it’s just not like anybody else’s.
Now Mark Peters from Engineers has returned the favour, joining Schnauss on an album that ditches conventional song structures to concentrate on mood and atmosphere. A lot of the characteristic touches are here – the multi-layering of electronic sounds and computerised rhythms with synth textures to “colour” the overall sound – but they are supported with Peters’ lingering crystalline guitar sound. The songs are almost entirely instrumental and have a breathy lightness, something like the Cocteaus/Robin Guthrie or even Enya and Clannad, and a somnambulistic quality: fitting, asUnderrated Silence was largely recorded at night.
Opener ‘The Messiah Is Falling’ is signature to the album, Peters’ rich guitar set to ambient washes of synth, the gentle electronic sounds surely texturing a film soundtrack waiting to be written. ’Long Distance Call’ and ‘Forgotten’ actually sound like they are re-visiting classic sci-fi films Bladerunner (soundtrack by Vangelis) and The Fifth Element (Eric Serra), both in their epic sweeps of analogue synths and the syncopated Kraftwerk-like beat. Singers are used sparingly onUnderrated Silence, to add colour and atmosphere rather than to achieve any lyrical effect. We are “So lost in time/So lost in you/Forget my name/Forget your time”, as Harrison Ford scans the dark rain-laden horizon looking for replicants … Tomorrow will never arrive in this dream world and ‘Yesterday Didn’t Exist’, it was just a watery moonlight sparkle fading on the back of Peters’ guitar. This and later track ‘Gift Horse’s Mouth’ pick up the tempo slightly with the sort of hypnotic charms Mike Oldfield used on his Philip Glass-inspired late ’70s Incantations album. The mood is extended as we drift off gently into the night …
Schnauss is keen for his music to be heard, so you’ll find a lot of it floating around on SoundCloud, YouTube and the like. The key to the German svengali’s work is its widescreen possibilities: the emotional response that music triggers when we watch a film or take in a painting which allows us to briefly inhabit another world. Fans will find enough on Underrated Silence before the big release drops later this year, its title track particularly endearing as it unfolds over its 7 or so minutes, reminding us to dream a little more.