Clear water hits the surface of a grainy ball. The stream slowly dissolves and flows down the spherical structure until it finally drops on a candle. The flame extinguishes; fragile streaks of smoke ascend until they hit the rough surface of the colossal globe again.
The cover art to Marble Arch, the second long-player of Vienna- and Berlin-based artists Oberst & Buchner, depicts masterly the dramatic juxtapositions the musicians have always been reflecting in their musical outcome.
The massive density of a giant sound wall is contrasted by spacious openness. Fragile sonic details are sparkling out of colossal pitch-black clouds. The songs are filled with gentle warmth and cold roughness, bright digital clarity and deep analogue crackle, ranging in style from pulsating dark-disco over classic pop to experimental ambient.
The duo’s two-week artist residency in a 250-year-old house, located in the mystic landscape of the Bavarian woods set this specific mood for the 10-track album which became a mixture of electronic synthesis, organic instrumentals and field recordings. Heavy-weight basslines in combination with bitter-sweet orchestral instrumentation and the minutiae of precise percussion recordings and drum programming are the characteristics that formed the sound of Marble Arch.
Oberst & Buchner’s way to deal with tension is in how they compose their song structures as extreme arcs of suspense in a near classical manner. Their intense dynamic arrangements always alternate between rise and explosion or implosion and fall. This way the compositions pick up the motive of creation and destruction throughout the long-player in the same way as the cover-art.
Taken together, all these fragments form the duo`s signature cinematic articulation of dramatic slowed down club music and moments of surprise.
The opener, “Arpology,” starts with a sonic dizziness of trippy warm notes and spacy percussion hits. The dreamlike atmosphere finds its concrete form throughout the first half of the track. A synthesizer, evoking memories from 80’s sci-fi movies, builds up and climaxes in the first hit of a brutal kick drum that replaces the woolly disorder with a static pulse. The 4-to-the-floor drums, a roaring bassline in combination with a characteristic arpeggiator, eponymous to the track, and a squealing acid synth are the elements that make this track an enormous dancefloor banger.
“Freie Sicht feat. Acud” stands out with a catchy picked bass guitar, accompanied by a deep menacing pad. A punchy snare, that shakes the listener to the core, pushes the track into a disco/new wave style. This feeling intensifies as Lasse Winkler’s, aka Acud, lyrics start in the first break. The Berlin-based electronic musician, vocalist and label head of “Keller” is known for his musical aliases Acud, Beatmörtelz and Lasse Winkler. He is wailing, “Do you see me, don’t you see me, I see you, I don’t see you,” throughout the track. On the face of it, a text of minimalistic simplicity, even naivety, but if you look at it more closely, they are words that are hard to grasp in their ambiguity and difficult to interpret. The well-known phrases become unfamiliar as he continually shifts the meaning by switching intonations. On the musical side the ease of a simple arpeggiator sequence is connected to sophisticatedly reverberated palm-mute guitar picks that form a vivid articulation of modern new wave.
“Marble Arch,” the album’s title track, begins with a shuffle groove of drums, sub-bass and synths. A brass-like synth gains attraction as the track continues. Percussion, drums and sequenced white noise make the track work like a cogwheel drive. It rattles and rumbles until the whole concrete construction falls apart and all elements merge in the melting pot of an orchestration that is both dramatic and nostalgic. As the strings culminate in a reverberated space that seems to collapse at the peak of suspense, a dry beat is putting the song back in position for a 4-to-the-floor dance floor hammer.
“Slotmachine feat. Aydo Abay” is settled in a colorful mixture of genres, styles and semblances to familiar sounds. The song floats between the sacred chanting of classic film soundtracks, 80’s disco basslines and vocoders, as well as pianos and reversed guitars derived from 2010’s alternative rock, a dramatic odyssey between Hans Zimmer, Pet Shop Boys and Radiohead. One can clearly hear the reference to the duo’s past as musicians in – and fans of – several indie post and progressive rock bands. Especially when the vocals of Aydo Abay, one of the most characteristic voices in German indie and alternative rock, well-known for being frontman of bands like Blackmail, Ken, Abay, Freindz or Musa Dagh, set in.
“You are somewhere I am in between,” could be the words of the song itself, as it is hard to determine its classification. Nevertheless it all makes sense, as all the obscure elements form a harmonious interplay that is emotional and uplifting at the same time.
“Sanguinaria feat. Kalipo” is characterized by an impelling bassline combined with both striking and restrained pad synths and percussion and drum elements that have their roots in UK garage or experimental trap. If one is familiar, you can clearly recognise the influence of the infamous Jakob Haeglsperger, best-known from his projects Frittenbude and Kalipo. His characteristic voyager-arpeggiator sounds and pads that sometimes seem to be rooted in oriental music make this track sound like an 80’s sci-fi disco inside the Khaimah of a snake charmer.
“Quicksand feat. Mimu” originally produced as an interlude for Oberst & Buchner’s second LP, comes with no beat but instead Mimu’s crystal clear voice that forms a beautiful symbiosis with lucid synths placed on top of a deep, warm bassline. That combination, a dance of molecules on a surface heated by the sun is a guarantee for cold shivers and warm goosebumps.
“Moving a Mountain” starts as heavy as the title suggests. The track ascends during the first part and gains energy through a snappy off-beat Hi-Hat. The harsh and heavy character of the track dissolves when a bittersweet lead synthesizer overlays the cold pulsating arrangement. In the further course of the track, breaks of breathing orchestrations with side-chained strings alternate with vibrant stomping slow-techno arrangements with a fine touch of 80’s disco.
“The Unknown feat. Faber” combines cosmic synthesizers with Faber’s processed voice and interjecting field recordings. The arrangement builds up tension without feeling heavy and culminates in a climax of energetic drums and arpeggios glued together by the vocals. The collaboration with Berlin-based Faber is an interplay of different sound aesthetics feeling modern and vintage at the same time.
“Ancient Watchtower” starts with a rainy soundscape setting the direction for the melancholic composition with an organic bassline as its foundation. Delayed synthesizers forming disharmonic structures paint a picture of the environment where the ideas for the album were collected and recorded. Subtle vocal snippets add to the hypnotic character of the track underlining a dreamlike approach with a constant change of moods between optimism and apocalypse.
The closing track, “3442 ft,” is the legitimate outro of Marble Arch, picking up the contradictory moods of the second album by Oberst & Buchner. Random objects were recorded to create an organic and playful fundament for eclectic melodies. Building up the maximum amount of tension throughout the arrangement, the outro is a last rebellion of the synthesizers rounding up the album as a whole.
releases September 16, 2022
All tracks are written and produced
by Sebastian Oberst & Andreas Buchner
Released by Heimlich Musik
Distribution by Wordandsound
Final mixdown by Jakob Häglsperger
Mastering by Hans-Philipp Graf @ HP Mastering
Additional programming by Martin Schiske @ Primitive Studios
Artwork and design by Andreas Buchner
Additional Photography: Sophie Neumann
„Freie Sicht feat. Acud”: Lyrics by Lasse Winkler
„Slotmachine feat. Aydo Aybay”: Lyrics by Aydo Abay
„Quicksand feat. Mimu”: Lyrics by Miriam Mone
„ The Unknown feat. Faber (Berlin)”: Lyrics by Christoph Karnop
Supported by Initiative Musik gGmbH with project funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media.
Special thanks to:
The Heimlich-Crew, Jakob Bouchal, David Buder,
Jakob Häglsperger, Martin Schiske, Johannes Jelinek,
Lasse Winkler, Aydo Abay, Miriam Mone, Christoph Karnop,
Sophie Neumann, Aylin Neuhofer, Florian Palmsteiner, Jochem Neerhof, Max Lanzinger, Denis Yashin, Thorsten Bludau, Harry Delgas, Nicolas Ohnesorge, Initiative Musik
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