Boomkat Product Review:
Seemingly getting better with every release, Hauschka delivers his third album for Fat Cat's classical offshoot, 130701. Having previously established himself as a gifted pianist and composer for prepared piano, Volker Bertelmann takes his craft to the next level by work extensively with orchestration. Recruiting a twelve-piece string and wind ensemble from San Francisco's Magik*Magik Orchestra, Bertelmann sets about transferring his lyrical and very accessible take on contemporary classical composition to a more complex and lavish setting, kicking off with the choppy and tuneful couplet of 'Alexanderplatz' and 'Iron Shoes' before briefly reverting to the more familiar strains of 'Mount Hood' - a beautiful prepared piano piece that sounds remarkably full and percussive. Beneath the central melody line you can hear Bertelmann's instrument creaking, clucking and groaning away, reminding you that despite all those additional arrangements, Hauschka's music stands out from the crowd by virtue of its unique central performances. Only three of the twelve selections here are piano solos, and tellingly, each one represents an album highlight. Much of the time, contemporary classical music from the likes of Max Richter, Peter Broderick and the like tends to sound closer in feel to film scores than classical music in its own right, and not dissimilarly Foreign Landscapes, for all its strings and woodwinds, almost feels like a collection of songs transcribed for orchestral instrumentation. The use of repetition, regimented rhythms and chord structures ensures there's always a very approachable, perhaps unexpectedly poppy feel to Bertelmann's music, though perhaps because of this it's often the most languid pieces - such as the wonderful 'Snow' or album closer 'Trost' - that really stand out.