Bersarin Quartett

I love Bersarin Quartett partly for the same reason I love Max Richter's albums. It's music for imaginary movies that's far better than most soundtrack albums from actual films. Instead of cues and jarring stabs that make little sense off screen, we hear perfect realisations of how a moody soundtrack album should sound; wordless storytelling that exists in its own world, and works on its own terms.

artist:
Bersarin Quartett

country of origin:
Germany

style(s):
Neo-classical, ambient, soundscape, cinematic

decades active:
00's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Bersarin Quartett (2008, Denovali Records)
  • II (2012, Denovali Records)
  • III (2015, Denovali Records)

Reviewed by Mike G

I love Bersarin Quartett partly for the same reason I love Max Richter's albums. It's music for imaginary movies that's far better than most soundtrack albums from actual films (Thomas Newman's best scores being among the exceptions). Instead of cues and jarring stabs that make little sense off screen, we hear perfect realisations of how a moody soundtrack album should sound; wordless storytelling that exists in its own world, and works on its own terms.

There is no "quartet" as such - just several supporting musicians revolving around German composer Thomas Bucker - but the name does suggest the intimacy of chamber music if not its small-scale sound. The self-titled debut album Bersarin Quartett (2008) is spread on a a wide canvas. The opening tracks are slow, lumbering breakbeats cradling warm strings - a kind of filmic trip-hop ala early Nightmares On Wax. Then there's the more landscaped pieces like the beatless "Inversion", its dark chords rendered with strings and moody synths. The swelling one-chord drone of "Und Die Welt Steht Still" is the equivalent of an enormous object growing in size on the horizon as you rush towards it, engulfing the space all round you before slowly receding from view again. Different again is "Es Kann Nicht Ewig Winter Sein" which juxtaposes eerie Arabic-flavoured strings with a smooching bassline and jazzy drum pattern. It's in such moments as this that Bucker sounds quite like no one else, carving a new, personal niche in electro-acoustic ambient music.

The second album, simply called II (2012), is also magnificent. Bucker fashions exquisite electro-acoustic blends - where the boundaries between the two are usually indistinct - using sound effects, loops, reverb and whatever other techniques he needs to mold his cinematic creations. Especially impressive on the album is the creative and discrete way he uses electronic glitch elements on some tracks; he understands that a little of that goes a long way. String textures from violins and cellos are prominent and it's in the string harmonies where much of the music's emotional power lies. The sad, utterly ravishing "Im Lichte des Anderen" is a high point, and at times the strings sound positively symphonic in depth such as as on "Perlen, Honig oder Untergang". As movie music for the mind, II is five-star material.

Three years separate II and third Bersarin Quartett album, helpfully called III (2015). It's essentially a continuation of its predecessor - as distinct from being a copy of it - and it is filled with moving, atmospheric and thought-provoking music. "Die Nächte Sind Erfüllt Von Maskenfesten" is a kind of post-rock elegy with its ghostly female vocals and quiet, churchy organ phrases carried on a jazzy drum loop, all swimming in a gorgeous sea of reverb. "Umschlungen Von Milliarden" sounds like it was built with samples taken from walls of distorted guitar, ingeniously muted and shaped into a dark and haunting cinematic tune with added strings. III proves again that Thomas Bucker is one of the greatest talents in contemporary ambient and downtempo, brilliantly working the borders between melody and noise, light and shadow, classical and modern.

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