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M. Ostermeier: Chance Reconstruction

img  Tobias Fischer

What adjectives could better define „Chance Reconstruction“ than „small“, „quiet“ and „fragile“: The longest piece here clocks in at just under five minutes. The entire album comes to a close after roughly half an hour. The loudest noise may well be a bittersweet Western-guitar cautiously dropping sad chords on a gently rocking loop of backward-pulses. Even the sound of your own breath feels intrusive at times as the music floats along on the wings of whisper. Before embarking on a solo career earlier this year, Marc Ostermeier  was mainly known as one half of Should. But the gently rolling drums, silky guitar lines and summery vocal harmonies of that project were always more „post“ than „rock“, tasting of pink-coloured cotton candy and floating with the grace of rabbit-shaped clouds on a blue sky. Even these tender tones now seem all but aggressively concrete in comparison - for his full-length debut under his civilian name, Ostermeier has burnt any remaining traces of the song-format and a traditional band-line-up.

To all appearances, we're in neoclassical territory here. Piano and guitar are sympathetically pitted against sonorous synthetic strings and pristinely crackling electronics. Passages for solo instruments take turns with carefully orchestrated tuttis. Meditative moments seamlessly lead into brittle beats. Arrangements are of a chambermusical transparency, with no single thematic line taking the lead and never more than four to five tracks sounding at a time. Mood and a carefully mapped-out trajectory of finely differentiated peaks and troughs reign over grand statements, linear build-ups and anthemic climaxes. With its sequence of interlude-like miniatures on the one hand and more expansive movements on the other, the album takes on the character of a suite or rather of a conceptual cycle, its different episodes linked by interrelated instrumentation, a shared sense for muted dynamics, an implicit narrative as well as a sense of pastoralia. The impression is further supported by the fact that while each individual piece is marked by an adamant adherence to a particular idea or ambiance, contrasts between tracks are actually quite palpable, rich textures giving way to sparse semblances, unadorned harmonies to lyrical melodies, pensive reveries to cool abstractions. The result is an evocative, zen-like discretion, which Ostermeier has, not inaptly, described as leading towards a „melancholic stilness - a place where one's entire focus is on inner movements, traces of dreams and long forgotten memories.

Referring to this music as „electroacoustic“ would be too analytical, characterising it as „Ambient“ too one-sided while applying any kind of clear-cut genre label to it disrespectful of its unique achievements. Ostermeier isn't just working on a cross-over between „classical“ timbres and „contemporary“ means, after all, but genuinely interested in finding adequate new forms for what may at first sight appear to be nostalgic sentiments and sounds. At its most minimalist, such as on the fleetingly stripped-down piano-thought „Suspended“, his vocabulary reduces music to the very skeleton of the traditional framework of pitches. At its most inquisitive, it creates shifting constellations of independently moving motives, ephemeral moments of constantly changing confluence. Occasionally, these can even, through surprising rifts, create the illusion of linear growth: For three minutes, „Hedge Game“ consists of nothing but dry, one-note string ostinatos, a single, dreamy piano line and the sound of what could be a bag of rice being emptied on the floor. Then, out of nowhere, metallic clicks merge into a rhythm, lifting the formerly inert elements off the ground and up into the air.

These occasional deviations from the subtly administered state of „melancholic stillness“ remain the odd exception, though. For most of the time, there is, on the contrary, a comforting sensation of near-stasis to these compositions. Which is not to say that nothing were happening. The real development, however, is taking place within the sounds and behind a screen as it were. It is almost, as if Ostermeier were sculpting new instruments for each piece – fantastical pianos made of marble, wood or granite - carefully adjusting their characteristics to the respective demands of his materials. Taking this attention to detail to extremes, each note, to be even more exact, is sculpted with his micro-chisels and surgical scalpels, until it has attained the right brightness, weight and colour. Once one has learned to listen to the unfolding prism of fore- and background, a single shimmering chord can take on powerfully metaphorical meaning, conjuring up intense images with nothing but an outwardly conventional triad.

While the purity of these insulated gestures may remind one of the precise, potent strokes of Japanese painting, the unfathomable depth of these seemingly simple pieces lends them an unexpectedly epic air. Yes, this is small, quiet and fragile music. But it is also the biggest small, loudest quiet and most incisively fragile music you'll hear for quite a while.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: M. Ostermeier
Homepage: Tench Records

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