The Bullingdon Arms, Oxford
28th February 2004
The highlight of the second Peepshow “audio visual treats and beats” night, Berliner Ulrich Schnauss immediately inspires adjectives – beautiful, lush, elegant, simple, refined, ambient, delicate, euphoric, anthemic…
Having released drum and bass under pseudonyms, 2001’s Far Away Trains Passing By was Ulrich’s first release under his own name. Combining the emotional intensity of classical with the electronic warmth of ambience, he simply sits there with a Powerbook and old Siel synth. His melodies swirl and embrace, ebbing and flowing without glitches; reminiscent of Vangelis and Boards of Canada, he’s all curves – an antidote to Matmos’ cut-up angles. The whole act was a mental soundscape, working well with the VJing; if you could see music, his melodies would form beautifully elegant and colourful mathmatical patterns. Taking on a life of its own, it’s much more organic than mechanical; composed rather than tweaked. Luckily I was listening with earplugs, as the Bully’s sound system couldn’t do justice to his subtlety.
Most tracks were from 2003’s A Strangely Isolated Place, but Nobody’s Home and Passing By from his first album stood out for their lush reverberant orchestrations. Though often using skipping breakbeats, he’s not a dance act – the beats are for momentum rather than dancing. Closer to indie than techno, despite the electronic medium, he’s obviously influenced by guitar bands like Ride.
His unrelenting rhythmic patterns don’t really build up to anything, but that’s part of the charm; they swell gently rather than build. Relaxing to listen to, his live act is a presentation of things to contemplate and appreciate, like the simplicity of his arrangements and the attention to detail in his engineering. It’s quite formulaic, but as he releases music under different names, he doesn’t have to marry all his influences in one project. Luckily for us and his growing critical fanbase, he’s confident in his style, and lovely it is too.
From Nightshift, April 2004