26 January 2011

Ulrich Schnauss - 2001 - Far Away Trains Passing By

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

I think Ulrich Schnauss is one of the more underrated musicians of the past decade. Along with his German countrymen (and women), Guitar, Schnauss has been taking aim an a great Euro-brand of shoegazing and electronic fusion. It's not the most original musical idea, but Schnauss' production talent allows him to work it into a state of near perfection. I think Schnauss is much better playing to his own strengths as his discography is wonderfully consistent, whereas Guitar got pretty hit-or-miss after their phenomenal first album. But we're here today to give a listen to Schauss' also great debut. The electronic quotient here is a little higher than his later albums, and while rarely lapsing into simple copying, the sounds here often evoke Air, Boards of Canada, and the quieter moments of Slowdive.

The album sets tone with the perfectly chilled out sounding "Knuddelmaus," and the album more or less hew closely to that sonic template. Some 'delayed to infinity ' guitars make their way into the sonic mix for the great "Between Us and Them." In fact, I feel like this does a better job of nailing down the electronic shoegazing sound of Slowdive's final album better than that band was able to do itself. "Molfsee" is the most derivative sounding track on the album, but it would fit perfectly well on a Boards of Canada album without anyone noticing that it was by a different creator. "Nobody's Home" brings the sound a little more above ground than the rest of the album, but it still features some wonderful dream pop textures.

My copy of this album came with a bonus disc which is good enough to make this qualify as a double album. These singles and B-sides fit in perfectly well with the rest of the album. The highlights include a great cover of Slowdive's "Crazy For You" and "Wherever You Are" ramps up the energy, which seems to be a signpost for where Schnauss would go on future releases. You'll even get a touch of vocals on this otherwise instrumental collection. In fact, the only dim spot on this bonus set is "As If You've Never Been Away," which comes a little too close for comfort to U2's "With or Without You."

This is a very modern sounding album, and definitely mining strains of psychedelia developed in the past couple decades. As I'm sure many of you do, I love vintage krautrock, but Germany has definitely shown a propensity for great electronic music over the past 15 or so years, and this is a great calling card for that.


* * e d o * * said...

thanks much for this Doctor!


Anonymous said...

Cool stuff! Both links seem to go to the same disc though. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

So they do. Let's try again:

Disc 1:

Disc 2:

the static fanatic said...

He picked up where BOC left off, as BOC had arguably done their best work by this point. This album, as simple as it was, was a giant ten years ago. Along with four tet, dntel, and telefon tel aviv, 2001 was a break out year for ulrich schnauss.