Hauschka - Salon Des Amateurs Remixes

by Daryl Worthington Rating:8 Release Date:2013-01-28

Hauschka is the nom de guerre of Volker Bertelmann. The German's main tool is the prepared piano, utilising cutlery, magnets and sponges to alter its sound in the creation of minimalist and occasionally classical-sounding compositions. His most recent album, Salon Des Amateurs, was described by Bertelmann as an attempt to create house music using these techniques. The result was rhythmically-centred pieces which almost sound like they have been digitally sequenced. In many ways his work is ideally suited to the remix treatment, built on unique textures and structures but with enough space in the arrangements to allow reinterpretation.

One of the most intriguing elements of this album is that some of the tracks receive two remixes from different artists, for instance opener 'Radar'. Firstly, we have a reinterpretation by Michael Mayer. His version is built on subtle variations to the original. Much of the structure remains the same. However, the rhythmic complexity of Hauschka's is replaced (as one might expect from the co-founder of Kompakt records) by a straight, four-to-the-floor bass drum. Similarly the original's almost funky synth bassline is replaced by a straight, driving, oscillating pulse. Mayer has removed much of the orchestration from the original, leading to warmth through minimalism. Indeed, the outcome is something which wouldn't sound out of place on one of Kompakt's Pop Ambient releases.

On of the other hand, we have the Alva Noto 'remodel' of the same piece. The track has been torn apart to create something dark and industrial. Ominous ambient synths lurk in the background, alongside blasts of static-covered noise and apocalyptic, reverb-soaked drums. The piano parts of the original have almost disappeared in the mix, occasionally reappearing as rhythmic texture rather than melodic leads. It is a criticism often thrown at electronic music that it lacks human involvement and imagination. The way two artists can take the same basic materials and create such different outcomes is evidence to counter this criticism.

Patten's remix of '2 AM' is a good example of how it is possible for a remixer to completely change the emotional co-ordinates of a song. Hauschka's version is a bombastic piece which sounds like the 2am of its title is one spent bouncing away in a club. Patten has augmented the arrangement with grainy distortions and layers of reverb which bring Tim Hecker's Ravedeath 1972 to mind. This textural shift realigns the song to the kind of 2am explored in Burial's more downtempo work, creating images of lonely comedowns and blurry night bus journeys. At the end, we are left with just a solitary track of piano playing through the distorted murk, adding a beautiful melancholy that isn't present in the Hauschka original.

Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer's remix of 'Cube' is perhaps one of the most startling on the album. Hauschka's melodies have been fused with Villalobos' distinctive, electrified Latin groove. As the track progresses, the deconstruction of the piece becomes more and more extreme, with deep slabs of bass and increasingly complex rhythmic patterns being added to the point where it almost sounds like some kind of euphoric techno free-jazz. Interestingly, it almost seems to bring Hauschka's work full circle.

One of the most obvious origins of Hauschka's music is the prepared piano experiments of John Cage, who aimed to manipulate the raw material of the piano to the point where its components would make something new and completely detached from its original timbres. Hauschka's skill has been in using these techniques to make a sweet, melodic-sounding music. Villalobos and Loderbauer seem to have taken Cage's approach of deconstruction to Hauschka, taking the melodic components and warping them into something more extreme, and completely unrelated to the original piece.

The one potential criticism of this album is that the sheer variety in the reinterpretations means that, although there'll be something on the album to appeal to everybody, only some people will find everything on it appealing. But there is a lot more imagination and invention on this album than one might expect from a collection of remixes, with enough deviation from the original to make it a worthwhile accompaniment.

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