Hauschka - Foreign Landscapes - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Hauschka - Foreign Landscapes

by Darren Loucaides Rating:7 Release Date:2010-10-25

One of a clutch of progressive contemporary composers, Hauschka is perhaps best known for his exploration of techniques pioneered by John Cage, notably the prepared piano (the process of 'engineering' a piano's mechanics largely through the misappropriating of everyday objects). He's also notorious for spectacularly playful live performances. On his latest LP, Foreign Landscapes, however, there's very little in the way of prepared piano, and even less that can be called 'spectacular'.

His previous release, Ferndorf, seemed to tenderly survey the past without simply being nostalgic; it was a celebration of first experiences, magically conscious that these memories were imaginary versions of the past. Foreign Landscapes seems to possess a not dissimilar narrative - it's a kind of travel diary featuring visits to 'Alexanderplatz' in Berlin and 'Kamogawa' in Japan - but these seem to be childish parodies of music with worldly influences, as though they're merely imagining what such farflung places would sound like. With this in mind, it's a cloistered-sounding album, as though from the perspective of one shackled to a narrow village, innocently dreaming of places they'll never see.

In parts, it would work perfectly as an indie film score; I can hear this soundtracking a character's mental voyage, skirting madness, reality fracturing. Indeed, listen to Foreign Landscapes while striding through busy city streets and you'll feel a curious distance developing between you and the world around you, everything that usually seems so mundane rendered a romantic, dramatic glow. However, the distance created is very limited - though orchestral, only a handful of string instruments contribute to the music, which thus feels 'close' throughout. No, this isn't grand, lofty theatre, but folk music for the folk drama that's all around.

Although different parts of the world are invoked, the music is quite samey. The repetitive cycles of shuddering notes, which rarely settle down but thunder on, almost methodically, means that, in contrast to Ferndorf, Foreign Landscapes is continually disconcerting. Piano pieces like 'Mount Hood' and 'Early in the Park', both reminiscent of Satie, are wonderfully refreshing, but feel so aimless - even improvised - that you're constantly wondering if they'll tumble into the uncertainty and troubled flight of other compositions. All these ingredients make for a densely interesting, if sometimes challenging, record.

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