Bersarin Quartett - II

02/11/2012 18:22

I’m trying to recall the last time the chamber-tinged ambient movement produced something worthwhile. While other types of ambient music have undergone something of a regression too (Stars of the Lid clones, I’m looking at you), the sudden influx of string-heavy ‘electronic’ artists with little depth is starting to reach an alarming rate. Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds and various other offenders are largely responsible for my contempt for the contemporary ambient scene, as are people who are willing to stamp the ‘modern classical’ tag on everything at the first sight of strings. It is in the light of these facts, and quite an enormous hype that has surrounded his recently released album II, that I was ready to give Bersarin Quartett, a one man German project founded by Thomas Bücker, the benefit of the doubt. As it turns out, it wasn’t a great idea.

Bücker’s sophomore effort plays its cards very much like its 2008 self-titled predecessor. We’re still treated to the same dark, minimalistic ambient and dominant strings that permeated every facet of Bücker’s previous output, while still maintaining a distinct, introspective quality. But whereas BQ was here-and-there sprinkled with elements of downtempo and twiddling percussions, II is a vast grey ocean of forgettable ambient and wasted possibilities that never develops beyond its stagnancy. It shares many of the same flaws that marred last year’s ‘classical ambient’ trademark, A Winged Victory for the Sullen (or any other recent release of this brand, really), as it offers largely uninteresting, meandering ambient drone with an obnoxiously extensive use of ineffective strings that never goes anywhere.

The record takes off quite nicely, though, as ‘Niemals Zuruck’ unexpectedly opens up with an impenetrable wall of droning dark ambient (think Lustmord cirka 1995), which, however, quickly dissolves into a mash of steady ambient and those oh-so-moving strings. For a record that is built around bleak, introspective moods and slow-burning textures, this is pretty harmless and forgettable. Beside strings and the occasional gentle piano, II is also interspersed with twinkly, pointless ‘electronic bleeps’ that garnered bands like Kashiwa Daisuke much of their underserved critical acclaim. Moreover, the record has serious issues in terms of dynamics. ‘Zum Greifen nah’ is a mournful, minimalistic track full of glitchy, scratching keys that is trying to break free of its stale composition and evolve into something more, only to become bigger in volume. The quite aptly titled (as the whole album is concerned) ‘Im Lichte des Anderen’ is quite the opposite, as it feels like one giant climax, constantly swelling under banks of strings with little to no build-up. These songs expose the album’s flawed post-rock leanings, alternating between dull, minimalistic build-ups in the vein of Explosions in the Sky, and predicable crescendos. ‘Alles ist ein Wunder’ carries some of the momentum found on previous effort, featuring sparse percussions and sporting quite an upbeat tempo. ‘Rot und Schwarz’ is the second mildly enjoyable song, as it expands on the immersive, disturbing dark ambient found in the beginning of the album. The rest, sadly, blends together, offering very little personality or depth.

While newcomers to the genre may extract some mild enjoyment from II, those of you tired of the ‘same old same old’ may want to look for good music someplace else. There’s already a bunch of Aidan Baker, Venn Rain or Sparkling Wide pressure recordings in the works, so finding great ambient albums in 2012 shouldn’t be an issue.

Adam Frank



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