Review: ‘Ferndorf’ by Hauschka

Ferndorf, the title of Hauschka’s new album, translates to “distant village.” That might just be where you end up after listening to the pleasantly soft, ambient album.

Or, you might just stay right in your place; only accompanied by the careful tunes of Hauschka. Ferndorf is very good as ambient music after all, not a sweeping epic to transport you but rather a guide to your self.

Best known as a pianist who likes to play with electronic instruments, composer Volker Bertelmann (recording as Hauschka) adds a string duo into the mix for most of the songs on Ferndorf. And it works.

Ferndorf is the German composer’s fourth full-length as Hauschka and the strings truly are a big deal. It is hard not to get hypnotized by the piano but the string accompaniment becomes not just accompaniment but a major player, transfixing ears right alongside the piano.

Bertelmann has become known for his use of the prepared piano, an instrument which he dedicated an entire album to (2005’s appropriately titled The Prepared Piano). His use of this instrument emphasizes his categorization as an experimental, avant-garde artist. A prepared piano is simply a piano but with assorted objects stuck inside and affixed to the piano’s strings; the modifications to the classic instrument create another world of sounds.

Ferndorf is also notable for its album-as-one-piece mentality. The record works on a whole, as no songs dare stray from the vocals-less, experimental chamber pop aesthetic Bertelmann marks as Ferndorf’s.

The album also flows beautifully. Only a few songs on the record do not transition seamlessly with one another (and this only due to a break in music, not poor juxtaposition).

While a plus with this album, some might consider the seamlessness a drawback. Because of Ferndorf’s fluidity there are no stand-out tracks. All the songs are quality ones but none of them will be making the year-end best songs list. That’s because this is an album.

It’s not a collection you can categorize in the “buy one song from iTunes, discard the rest” trash bin. Ferndorf is a piece meant to be consumed as a whole.

Not that you cannot enjoy the songs individually, for you certainly can. You just won’t be walking away with a brilliant pop hook stuck in your head.

All the songs on the 12-track disc are given German titles, save for the opening and closing songs.

“Blue Bicycle” starts the album off with a classy piano refrain that swells into evolution as the strings come into introduce Ferndorf as one you will not mind playing again and again (perhaps in the background, but nonetheless).

“Weeks of Rain” closes the set on a mildly somber note. The reflective piano of the song would not be classified as twee by anyone with their emotions in order. The song simply ends somewhat abruptly without any finishing grandiose flourishes. You might not even notice the album is over.

But when you do notice, you press repeat.

– R.H.

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One response to “Review: ‘Ferndorf’ by Hauschka

  1. Pingback: The Best Music of 2008 « Two Silenced Voices: Critics At Large

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