- by Joseph Majsterski Release Date:2017-02-17 Label: Kompakt
II is the second album from Vermont, the German duo of Danilo Plessow and Marcus Worgull. It occupies a spot that's not quite fully ambient, since there are beats and a bit more action, but also not very close to anything more energetic and hectic like popular electronic music such as EDM. They're in the neighborhood of contemporaries like Steven Hauschildt, building their own spaces for their own edification.
The album starts extremely strong, with the ranging tones of 'Norderney', a mellow song that feels both contemporary and nostalgic, like watching a 70s sunset on a big screen TV. 'Ufer' rolls itself out slowly, starting with gently plucked guitars from guest musician Robbert Van Der Bildt and reverbing keyboards, and slowly building into a series of glittering synth explosions, tiny little bursts of joy riding through dark city streets.
'Chemtrails' is phenomenal, achieving the difficult feat of sounding completely alien. There's a place such songs take me, and I'm always thrilled to find another that can do so. The mournful pads, the deep bass, and the freaky sound effects echoing and spiraling around bring to mind a landscape of purple sands, a dim, weak sun, and and a meditative desolation beyond even post-apocalyptic. It's probably the strangest and creepiest track on the set, but it's a real highlight.
The track blends seamlessly into 'Skorbut', which revs things up a bit with a subtle beat, and a sense of dreadful urgency in the low synths, and some delightfully eerie high notes. This is more like a futuristic spy mission than a dead planet, but it also works really well. 'Chanang' leads off with a delicate clockwork melody, layers in some incredibly haunting pads, and then adds in a light beat and muted yet booming bass. A second, more driving and straightforward melody and some strings played by guests Dermot O'Mahony and Tadhg Murphy give the whole thing a rather cinematic feeling.
Not every song is amazing. 'Gebirge' is mostly dull, a track that just shows up, swirls around aimlessly, and dissipates. It has the same elements as many of the other tracks, but the execution in this case is just uninspired. 'Demut', too, is pleasant enough, but doesn't really go anywhere. And I know this is a weird thing to complain about with ambient music, but the fact remains there's no sense of progress or journey, as many such tunes provide. And the album doesn't feel like it has a coherent theme or plan. Each piece is done is isolation.
Still, overall the work is impressive, providing a solid mix of upbeat ambient and chillout electronica. There may eventually be better such releases this year, but for now, this will fill that gap in your playlist nicely.