For his eighth solo studio album, Hauschka, real name Volker Bertelmann, continues a thirteen-year streak of stretching the capabilities of the humble piano.
The use of pianolas – automated, self-playing pianos – is prominent throughout ‘What If’, with Bertelmann creating layers which overlap and interplay in a tightly choreographed melee. The pianos, as on previous records, have been ‘prepared’ too. This involves placing objects on or between the piano’s strings to alter the sound produced.
The result is an intense kind of dialogue between man and machine, and draws from the typically organic piano sound a new, otherworldly texture.
There’s more to it than ivory keys, though, as Bertelmann employs synthesised buzzing, vintage echo treatments and strings to flesh out the spaces in between.
He’s called the record an imagining of what the world might be like in 30 years’ time. We’re not sure how to measure the success of his predictions, but if the planet ends up sounding this good then old age might not be so bad after all.
Words: Will Pritchard
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