By: Gaz Cloud
Ulrich Schnauss | facebook | twitter | soundcloud |
Picture Palace Music | website
Oslo, Hackney | February 27, 2015
Edgar Froese died on 20th January, lending added significance to two superb events already scheduled for 38 days later on opposite sides of London. At the Royal College of Music, a talented group comprising Flood, Ed Buller, Dave Bessell and Mel Wesson set out to create sweet sounds using analogue synths and sequencers. Performing as Node, the quartet’s gigs are few and far between, but their reputation for EM par excellence was reportedly reaffirmed this evening. The atmosphere, meanwhile, was apparently staid, with dancing frowned upon.
Further east, in Oslo (confusingly a venue in Hackney), the atmosphere is rather different, as another group of synth aficionados gather for a night firmly imprinted with Tangerine Dream’s mark. First up are Picture Palace Music, a band led by Thorsten Quaeschning, Froese’s long-standing partner in TD. The group also star Chris Hausl on vocals, who TD fans will remember from ‘Madcaps Flaming Duty’. Picture Palace Music are their own beast though, and tonight’s performance showcases their current gothic sound, with melodious electronics wrapped around live guitars and drums. New material from the forthcoming Unpredictable ConSequences album is aired, including Realm of Possibilities, a high point of the set. There’s plenty of opportunity for Quaeschning to add flourishes at the keyboard and whilst his voice is not the band’s strongest feature, it is strangely compelling. Sequencers unfurl and the set heads into darker corners of the mind, at times the pace slowing to a hypnotic crawl, at others it flirting with drum and bass, but the music always retaining a sense of noir-esque suspense.
Ulrich Schnauss’ fine body of work runs from the shoegaze-electronica of A Strangely Isolated Place to shiny Electronic Music on 2013’s A Long Way To Fall. His performance is split into two parts, and the first of these sees him bent over his laptop, head towards the side wall of the minimally decorated room-above-a-trendy-pub. Never afraid to improvise, he crafts ambient passages, interlocking beats and plenty of mesmeric sequencers. Sonically it’s a solid but not exceptional set from Schnauss, and with the sound system a little bass-heavy at times, some of the intricacies are lost. The whole thing is brought to life by the dynamic presence of Nat Urazmetova, who provides AV accompaniment that is a neat fit with the music. Initial video sequences suggest industry before moving to cityscapes and daily life just as Schnauss’ sound starts to busy.
Prior to starting the second half of his set, Schnauss takes the mic and, nervously at first but with real affection, talks about Edgar and his impact. The remainder of the set, he remarks, will consist of the music the two of them had been working on in the months leading up to Edgar’s passing. The circumstances surrounding the creation of the sounds are not the most significant thing about them, though. That accolade is reserved their quality. All aspects of the human condition seem wrapped up in these compositions, which rank amongst the most danceable music either Schnauss or Froese has ever made. Full of light and shade, Ulrich is never afraid to bring forward proud major triads; this is a trip to enjoy, not endure. But it is a trip and Urazmetova’s visuals only enhance the effect, favouring natural landscapes of mountains and canyons where the music soars, and utilising the geometric symmetry of nature for the more complex passages.
This musical tour-de-force delights the hardcore fans and hipsters alike, suggesting there’s only one place these compositions should end up: on an album. (Indeed an announcement has been made since the gig that suggests this material will see the light of day.) Right here it’s enough to ensure the crowd roar their approval, and Schnauss returns triumphantly for an emotive two track encore of classic tracks from his back catalogue, ending with a frenetic, jerking drum and bass reworking of On My Own. Froese’s demise is sad, but his legacy lives on. Acts like Picture Palace Music, Ulrich Schnauss and Loom demonstrate that contemporary electronic music is in a very healthy state indeed.