After plugging away on the IDM scene for over a decade, German composer Apparat then suddenly found himself as an unlikely TV/film soundtrack staple, with his music used in the trailer for Rust & Bone, the penultimate series of Skins, and most notably, the finale of Breaking Bad Season 4.
Rather than capitalising on this new-found mainstream exposure, Sascha Ring has instead made the leftfield choice to release Krieg und Frieden (Music For Theatre), his score for Sebastian Hartmann’s avant-garde stage production of Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace.
Initially composing the music over four weeks in an abandoned factory with a 30-piece ensemble, Apparat then hooked up with regular touring musicians, cellist Philipp Timm and violinist Christoph Hartmann, to add more depth to the record’s ambient sound.
Not that you’d particularly guess that from several of the ten largely instrumental compositions on offer here. “44 (Noise Version)” is little more than one long shimmering shoegazey note that makes My Bloody Valentine appear positively bubblegum, likewise the buzzsaw atmospherics of “Tod.” Additionally, the first half of “PV” is so minimal that you begin to wonder whether the trio simply forgot to press the record button.
But although Krieg und Frieden inevitably loses some of its impact without the accompanying visuals for which it was intended, it’s not always so inaccessible, as evident on “Austerlitz,” which combines Kid A-era Radiohead piano chords with sweeping classical strings that could have been lifted from a Downton Abbey-style period drama.
The two vocal numbers are also more in keeping with the lush melancholic balladry of 2011’s The Devil’s Walk, with “Light On” channelling the achingly sad post-R&B of How To Dress Well, and gorgeously delicate closer “A Violent Sky” recalling the glacial dream-pop of Sigur Ros, a band whom Apparat may soon challenge for both the big and small screen’s soundtrack of choice.
Krieg und Frieden still seems like a bizarre career move for an artist who was slowly beginning to make waves outside the glitchy Berlin circle. But ignore the occasional drones and it’s an often enchanting listen which is nowhere near as impenetrable as its concept would suggest.