Ulrich Schnauss - A Long Way to Fall - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ulrich Schnauss - A Long Way to Fall

by Steve Rhodes Rating:7 Release Date:2013-02-12

German-born, but often London-based, producer Ulrich Schnauss has been prolific over the last two decades, with a plethora of output released under a number of pseudonyms, remixes for a number of acts, including Pet Shop Boys and Death Cab for Cutie, and collaborations with like-minded, largely unknown artists such as Airiel, A Shoreline Dream, Engineers and Alex Kreuger. With this fourth album under his own name, Ulrich has followed his traditional path of blissful electronica and walls of synths, mixed with occasional washes of heavily-treated guitar, but has gone a step further, expanding on his excellent collaboration with Mark Peters last year, embracing ambient and early-90s IDM sounds, and producing an album which wears its influences on its sleeve but is still unmistakeably Ulrich.

Opener 'Her and the Sea' is a decent introduction to the album, with an ambient beginning and warm synths, aided on occasion by a buried, heavily-vocoded vocal sample, the song develops and motors along, with increasing bleeps and beats being added along the way, adding texture and depth but without being overblown or any part dominating. It's a nice beginning which could easily rank alongside the best work of contemporaries such as Toro Y Moi and Memory Tapes.

'Broken Homes' continues the slow-building trajectory, with subtle sampling and layering of beats and bleeps. The song is upbeat, warm and lush with clear nods to Boards of Canada. This optimism is shared on the playful 'Like a Ghost in Your Own Life', more reminiscent of late 90s Birmingham duo Plone in the beats and instrumentation, and the more dramatic 'Borrowed Time', with its subtle changes in pace and mood.

Some of the stronger tracks are where Ulrich has dipped into early 90s electronica and put his mark. Title track 'A Long Way to Fall' is a beautiful, relaxed song, awash with atmosphere, with the odd quiet vocal and enveloping synths, which points towards dance producers Miro and Salt Tank, as well as major ambient pioneers Brian Eno and Brian Reitzell. 'A Ritual in Time and Death' takes a tour even further back to the late-70s, with an uncanny resemblance to a remake of the theme from John Carpenter's The Fog at times, but also to Disco Evangelists, Global Communication and Art of Noise.

'The Weight of Darkening Skies', however, is the track which stands out, basically putting all of the themes of the album into one song. Beginning with hypnotic, analogue keys and subtle beats, the song builds with dreamy synths before taking a sudden detour with a sharp change of pace, pulse and tone-bend, and then repeating the pattern again within the song. Combining all the strengths of Ulrich's work, it is the highlight of a strong album.

With perhaps only the unmemorable 'A Forgotten Birthday' and the weightier but frustratingly anodyne 'I Take Comfort in Your Ignorance' as weak points, Ulrich has produced a positive and consistent release which grows with every listen and can only add to his reputation. This is an album which could fit easily on those Northern Exposure compilation CDs of the late-90s or on Warp Records in their heyday, but equally one that sounds unique and contemporary.

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