Ulrich Schnauss

Think of these albums as two sides of the same coin. Far Away Trains Passing By is the happier and more dreamy of the two, while A Strangely Isolated Place suggests a darker side with its distorted electric guitar textures, more obvious indie rock flavours and even wordless female vocals on occasion. Both are wonderful records full of beauty and longing, blessed with tunes you will find difficult to expel from your mind.

artist:
Ulrich Schnauss

country of origin:
Germany

style(s):
Ambient pop, shoegaze, ambient rock, breakbeat, chillout

decades active:
00's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Faraway Trains Passing By (2001, City Centre Offices)
  • A Strangely Isolated Place (2003, City Centre Offices)

Reviewed by Mike G

As beloved as much by indie rock fans as electronica and chill enthusiasts, Berlin musician Ulrich Schnauss seemed to appear out of nowhere in 2001 with the sublime Faraway Trains Passing By (2001). In truth, he had been active for many years under other names; even a casual listen to the polished, mature Trains and its followup A Strangely Isolated Place (2003) shows none of the rawness or misfires you'd expect from an electronic composer taking his first steps.

Schnauss's first two albums of ambient pop/rock instrumentals with occasional wispy vocals are chock full of great melodies and sweeping widescreen vistas. Their brilliance is in how the music sounds epic while remaining intimate and personal. At the core of Schnauss music is a liquid sound that's immediately recognisable - on both his own albums and the many remixes he's done for the chill, house and rock acts who've been knocking on his door. He uses extremely long delay and reverb effects on his guitars and synths to stretch out layers of notes and chords until they arc endlessly across the massive spaces he creates. At his best, his sound hangs magically in mid-air while still retaining a sense of momentum and purpose. This distinctive ambience has led to frequent and valid comparisons with indie pop/rock acts like The Cocteau Twins, Slowdive and Chapterhouse. By contrast, his way with breakbeats owes something to the rhythms that underpin the lush ambient techno of UK label Warp Records during its 1990's Artificial Intelligence era. Schnauss may wear his influences on his sleeve, but how.

Think of these albums as two sides of the same coin. Far Away Trains Passing By is the happier and more dreamy of the two, while A Strangely Isolated Place suggests a darker side with its distorted electric guitar textures, more obvious indie rock flavours and even wordless female vocals on occasion. Both are wonderful records full of beauty and longing, blessed with tunes you will find difficult to expel from your mind.

Subsequent Ulrich Schnauss albums rather pale in comparison to the first two. Goodbye (2007) is so densely layered that its walls of sound sometimes become undistinguished noise; Epic (2010) and A Long Way to Fall (2012) occasionally match their predecessors' best moments but don't sustain them.

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