Who says experimental music can't be emotive? - Articles - Soundblab

Who says experimental music can't be emotive?

by Daryl Worthington Rating: Release Date:

Since 2005, Germany's Denovali Records has been consistently releasing experimental music of high quality from around Europe. Two of their artists, London's Petrels, and Sardinia's SaffronKeira, have shown that music can be brave, ambitious and abstract, without losing the core of an emotional interaction with the listener.

The most startling thing about SaffronKeira's album A New Life is its ability to craft artificial and synthetic components into something of devastating beauty. The album features occasional live instrumentation, such as the beautiful piano arpeggios of 'First Denti', and restrained strings throughout its various tracks, but at its core it is an electronic record, made of samples, electronic beats and bassy drones. What makes it sound so engaging is that each static-smothered voice recording, synth-y drone, glitch and click sounds like it has been lovingly engineered to compliment the carefully sculpted tone of the album.

A New Life has a wonderful blend of deep headphone ambiences with moments of driving minimal techno beats, giving the whole piece a constant sense of movement and contrast. German dark ambient pioneer Thomas Koner is another member of the Denovali family, and SaffronKeira's attention to sonic details is in many ways reminiscent of his dark, drone-centric work. SaffronKeira adds a distinct optimism to these textures which is all his own. A double album over two hours long, this is music that is meant to be slowly absorbed by the listener. Throughout the dense textures, there is always melody. It is subtle, often coming from unlikely sources, but it is always present and always engaging.

To my ears, SaffronKeira fits into a lineage which starts with German electronics pioneers such as Cluster and Neu!, and has continued to include more modern artists such as Aphex Twin (on his Selected Ambient Works) and Burial. A form of electronic music which, although constructed from cold clinical technology, captures a warmth and resonance reflective of the artist and the surroundings in which the music was constructed.

Petrels has enjoyed some high-profile and well-deserved support slots over the last few years, most notably with Trouble Books and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster. In 2011, he released the album Haeligewielle, a journey through gracefully bowed strings, walls of euphoric distorted drones, and blissful choral arrangements. It would be easy to classify the album as ambient, drone or modern orchestral music, but this I feel misses one of its most crucial elements - a raw, visceral energy to the performances that makes it stand out from its contemporaries.

Earlier this year he released a new two track EP entitled Talus Dice/Beyond the High Savannahs which shows his electronic influences coming much more to fore. A warm, almost dancey feel has been absorbed, reminiscent of that so often found on Kompakt releases. However, this has been incorporated alongside the well-arranged dynamics and soaring melodies of Haeligewielle, creating something unique, and something that seems like a natural progression rather than a contrived one.


Petrels' live shows are built on a gradually ascending sense of contrast. Starting with subtle drones familiar from the early parts of his album, gradually more and more elements are added creating a swirling wall of sound, before the wonderful release of almost club-friendly beats, maintaining and ultimately amplifying the rawness found on the recordings.

SaffronKeira and Petrels are testament to the unique possibilities still available through experimental music, and the fact that ambition and imagination doesn't have to lead to cold, detached music.

SaffronKeira will be playing his debut London show, on November 13, at Catch Bar in Shoreditch, supporting Petrels.

Tickets can be bought for £3 in advance from http://www.wegottickets.com/event/191518

A facebook event with more information is here:


Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Nice review there Daryl - I've not heard of either artist before but have been a fan of Denovali for a while, particularly because of the band Blueneck, who've released a number of albums on their label!

There are no comments posted here yet