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Hauschka - Room To Expand

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Artist: Hauschka

Album: Room To Expand

Label: FatCat

Review date: Jul. 23, 2007

For his third album under the Hauschka moniker, Düsseldorf-based Volker Bertelmann fuses the once-radical sentiment of the prepared piano with a populist appeal. His route, guided by the pulse and pattern music of Steve Reich and Terry Riley, makes stopovers in the world of electronica and gamelan, while the final destination is a seductive collection of lush, propulsive compositions laden with hooks. Bertelmann places the technique center stage, moving the prepared piano beyond its role as a source of alien textures and colors.

To achieve the variety of rustling, clicking, scraping and twanging tones, Bertelmann utilizes tin foil, corks, bits of leather and felt, duct tape and more. The preparations become alternately highly percussive (“Paddington,” “Belgrade,” “Sweet Spring Come”), add textural ambience (“Chicago Morning”) or generate microtonal clouds that ghost the main thrust of the pieces (“One Wish,” “Kleine Dinge”). The resulting sounds and textures are vibrant and fresh, sharpening the edges of Bertelmann’s sprightly melodies and clear harmonies.

What ultimately lifts the effects out of the realm of mere gesture is Bertelmann’s willingness to augment his piano language with other instrumental colors. He integrates bowed strings into “La Dilettante,” a brass section into “Belgrade” and “Chicago Morning” and elsewhere finds room for a drum machine, electric bass and vibraphone. The timbre and location of these details get the same meticulous care as the piano preparations do, and thus gives Room to Expand a compositional girth to support its instrumental inventiveness.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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