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Ulrich Schnauss “A Long Way To Fall” – Album Review

Following three consecutive collaborative efforts with Danish dream-pop producer Jonas Munk, Engineers’ bassist Mark Peters and bass maestro ASC, the leading figure on the ‘shoetronica’ scene, Ulrich Schnauss has flown solo for his tenth studio album, A Long Way To Fall.

It’s a decision which appears to have inspired something of a musical rethink. Gone are the shimmering reverb-laden instrumentals inspired by the early 90s shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, and in their place are a stream of more rhythmic soundscapes in keeping with the back catalogue of Warp Records’ finest, from the ethereal breakbeat of opener “Her And The Sea,” to the glitchy Boards Of Canada-esque “A Forgotten Birthday” to the layered techno of “I Take Comfort In Your Ignorance.”

The samey criticisms levelled at Schnauss’s recent output, therefore, aren’t particularly valid here, especially considering there are several more melodic offerings which also unexpectedly throw a few nods to the 80s. “The Weight Of Darkening Skies,” an abrasive wall of noise that almost drifts into the same metal-tinged dubstep territory as Nero, contains the kind of robotic vocodered vocals you’d expect from a Cameo record, while there are definite shades of Jean Michel Jarre on “Like A Ghost In Your Life,” a track which could virtually be described as bouncy reggae-pop.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Ulrich Schnauss album without a mission statement, and A Long Way To Fall doesn’t disappoint. Described by its creator as “celebrating synthesisers while retaining a human quality and open structure,” the Kiel native has indeed imbued his sound with a warmth and personality absent from many of his peers, whether it’s through the New Age post-rock of the title track and crystalline minimalism of “Broken Homes” or the slightly philosophical nature of its song titles.

A Long Way To Fall might disappoint those who were looking forward to something as challenging as 2012’s Underrated Silence, even if it’s hardly a bid for the mainstream. But as a surprisingly playful journey back to one of the early 90s other key musical movements, it’s an equally captivating listen.

4 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Electronic Music, Featured


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