Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ulrich Schnauss

About Ulrich Schnauss

Ulrich Schnauss was born in northern Germany fishing port Kiel in 1977, during his formative years he grew a love for a broad spectrum of music ranging from my bloody valentine to tangerine dream, chapterhouse to early bleep & breakbeat tracks. There was not much opportunity to see some of his musical heroes in Kiel, so the inevitable pull of the big city meant a move to Berlin in 1996.

By which time Ulrich's musical output had already become prolific with a variety of pseudonyms (most notably View to the Future and Ethereal 77) veering from ambient to drum and bass via electronica. These earlier works were soon, catching the eye of Berlin electronica label CCO who took up the story.

It came a bit of a regular thing, those anonymous packages sent to us from Berlin with a single CDR, a biro scrawl revealing at closer inspection the simple stamp 'Ethereal 77'. Ulrich had been making music for years, producing, touring, piecing together that BIG sound. And yet each of these CDR instalments revealed something a little more personal.

Soon these submissions to CCO developed into Ulrichs first album under his own name entitled Far away Trains Passing By which as it slowly seeped into peoples consciousness became an electronic classic. Listeners were taken with the lush instrumentation and the emotion of the elegant, simple and beautiful music.

Yet nothing was to prepare his growing army of supporters for this next record A Strangely Isolated Place which slowly came together during 2001 into a record that really showed some of Ulrichs youthful indie influences. His debut album under his real name established his pedigree as an outstanding electronic composer, but somehow he managed to take it further by developing his interest in songwriting for electronic music, born of his love for such giants of the independent world as My Bloody Valentines Kevin Shields and Cocteau Twins Robin Guthrie. From this humble conception, comes forth a record of surprisingly rare emotional power.

A Strangely Isolated Place has become one of those extraordinary and rare occurrences; a genuinely word-of-mouth record slowly growing in stature by virtue of its over-riding ability to deliver more than the usual arid and academic treatises on the state of the synthesizer, or solipsistic bedsit meanderings.

When youve worked with computers and keyboards for a number of years, they become not so fascinating of themselves anymore. I gained in confidence after people began to discover Faraway Trains and it hasnt really stopped since then. This time I decided not to compromise on what I wanted to do, with what I thought people might want me to do.

Ulrich's third album, Goodbye, is his first for Independiente. It is also the end of a chapter in his sound. "I see these three albums as moving closer to something I wanted to do right from the beginning but didn't quite manage," he says. "Merging songwriting and indie elements with electronic music. I've tried to take all the ideas to the maximum."

So the ambient tracks are more spacious, the songs more memorable, the multi-layered, guitar-heavy tracks more ragingly psychedelic. Just listen to the obliterating rush of Medusa, or the cloudbusting dream-pop of Stars (performed by long-time collaborator Judith Beck). At times, there are over 100 different audio tracks playing simultaneously: a tower of song. No wonder Goodbye has taken three solid years of in the studio.

If Ulrich hailed from somewhere less boring, things might have been different. Fortunately, he was born in 1977 in Kiel, an unprepossessing city on Germany's Baltic coast best known for its naval base. It seemed to the young Ulrich as if everything important was happening elsewhere.

Like its predecessors, Goodbye constructs its own world, vast and vivid. When he's making music, Ulrich sees colours: one song might be red, another blue. Next time, he wants to "record an album based on more traditional electronic music structures - which could enable me to merge all these different influences beyond recognition". Meanwhile, this is the album he's been moving towards for over a decade: a sonic tour de force, an alternative reality, a life-changer.

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