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Apparat Ventures Into The Theatre with “Krieg und Frieden” (Album Review)

EMI (2013)

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.

3.5 / 5 stars     

About the Author


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