Hauschka - Salon Des Amateurs

by Darren Loucaides Rating:9 Release Date:2011-04-11

The third LP from Hauschka surpasses its modest predecessor, Foreign Landscapes, in every way. Where the latter could feel aimlessly circular, and claustrophobic, Salon Des Amateurs enthrals and absorbs with its broader strokes, its dramatic depths and many layers. It manages this by taking a surprising side-step: the first moments of opener 'Radar', with its percussive Morse code piano, trembling bass synth, and matter-of-fact horns, signal a move towards electronic music - techno, principally - and, to a certain extent, away from Hauschka's classical signature. This is achieved, however, principally through the use of prepared piano, and it's this that makes the record so breathtakingly unique.

A smattering of drums appears throughout - a high-hat tickled here, a snare rattled there - but for the most part, the intensely rhythmical nature of Salon Des Amateurs emanates from the piano itself - and the objects placed on its strings in the tradition of prepared piano. The result is that each beat, each thud, has its own voice, its own tone and pitch, creating an incredible tapestry of not only melodies, but percussion also.

'Ping' demonstrates this superbly, with Volker Bertelmann (the man behind Hauschka) seeming to test every tapping, patting, plunking weapon in his arsenal. 'Subconscious', meanwhile, begins with the pulsing repetition of a high note, precisely like the start of a house track, only without the synth. Later, as a lower, two-note melody enters, and other melodies begin to stir and meander, a descending bling-bling piano part appears, delightfully recalling the vogueish sounds of Nintendo. In 'Tanzbein', tick-tocking melodies build and wind around one another from an innocuous, slender source, like tributaries gathering towards a gushing river; a mighty bass drum begins to rumble, a cymbal shivers; and eventually it all tumbles into an abrupt, guileless close.

In the naivety of imagining places abroad from what felt like confinement, Foreign Landscapes was almost like a cry for help. Instead of imagining, Salon Des Amateurs is the sound of real experience. It isn't dreaming of or trying to conjure another world, but actually living it. It's a coming of age; a wild, invigorating night out in some cutting-edge city, full of romance, danger, and adventure.

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