Ulrich Schnauss - No Further Ahead Than Today

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2016-11-04

Ulrich Schnauss. I can't remember when I first discovered the German producer, but ever since, I've felt like he's been stalking me. It seems like no matter where I go, or where I listen to music, sooner or later he turns up again. I have something of a love hate relationship with him, because while his music is quite pleasant and enjoyable to listen to, I suspect there's a global conspiracy at work ensuring I'll never escape his clutches. So when I saw he had a new album titled No Further Ahead Than Today coming out this month, I decided to face his Illuminati machinations head on rather than continuing to run. The good news is, I've lived to tell the tale.

For the most part, this is classic Schnauss: huge, drifting pads and melodies floating across foggy wastelands, breathy vocals, and smoothly muted beats. Almost everything on here sounds vaguely like I've heard it before. Like many producers who also create in their own work, Schauss seems better as having a signature sound rather than being a top-notch songwriter. But occasionally he manages to transcend himself, as in 'The Magic in You'. It starts out doing all the usual stuff, but cranks everything to eleven during a hair-raising pair of triumphant moments. Briefly, everything goes just right, you feel yourself lifted over the cloud tops, and you can see everything. It's like being at the peak of a mile-high roller coaster on E. Honestly, I've become a bit obsessed with this song and can't stop listening to it.

Sadly, numinous experiences like these are few and far between, with the vast majority of the tunes blending together and sounding much like songs from previous albums. They're not necessarily bad, but they're all instantly familiar. It's like buying a new pair of shoes that are the exact same as the ones you just replaced. Sure, they're new, but they don't have any surprises in store, and it won't be long before they're completely indistinguishable from the old ones. A few other bits stand out, like the grinding organics halfway through 'Negative Sunrise', which add a nice extra layer of texture, and the intricately wired electronics at the beginning of 'Wait for Me'. 'Thoughtless Motion' slows things down, gets a lot squibblier with the melodies, and includes some crisp, hollowed out percussion, all of which incredibly refreshing. And the title track features lots of sweet tinkling, although it's definitely one of the worst offenders in the rerun department.

If you're a huge Schnauss fan who can't get enough of his signature sound, you absolutely can't go wrong with this. If you've heard his stuff and don't find it that exciting, take a pass, as there's nowhere near enough innovation to rekindle your interest. In the context of his career, it's nothing special, but fans of ambient-leaning electronic music who aren't familiar with Schnauss should definitely grab this, as it's a totally solid set when taken on its own.

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