Hauschka is a German born composer, songwriter and experimental musician who has brought an exciting new perspective to the prepared piano through avant-garde, pop, modern classical and electronic explorations. The compositions on Abandoned City awaken the loneliness and unattainable romance of timeless, unfamiliar places with cinematic melodies full of resonant overtones, bright cheerful keyboard patterns and dark percussive touches. The tracks all bear the names of actual vacant cities, recorded using nine microphones. Six of the microphones recorded sounds coming from the piano strings through an analogue console feeding directly into a computer preserving the warm sound while the other three passed the tones through a mixer full of effects.
Track one Elizabeth Bay is dark and dramatic with punctuated bass notes that create tension. The bass melody is repeated yet the other noises and notes develop and change allowing the tone to alter to ensure this song remains interesting. This song gradually adapts and develops into something spectacular. The clever arrangements and techniques used on the piano are outstanding. It’s a creative masterpiece.
In comparison Pripyat features uplifting light notes on the piano after a rather haunting yet comforting introduction. The juxtaposition of the light notes and bass notes gives it that scary yet familiar and safe feeling. It’s completely different from Elizabeth Bay.
Thames Town has a jazzy, Latino meets Spanish alternative beat which is rather unexpected after hearing the first two tracks. Thames Town has more of a rhythmic drum beat and heavy percussion. It sees world influences introduced to this eclectic record as the piano has been made to sound like a Jamaican silver drum.
Who Lived Here? brings back those sad, melancholic tones with the prolonged chords left to ring out aiding this sadness. The string accompaniments compliment the classical influences heard on the piano here. Who Lived Here? is one of the best tracks as the arrangements of the piano and strings make it relaxing and intriguing. This is a track that tells a story – there’s emotion behind it. There’s no need for the gift of poetry through lyrics on this track.
Agdam, which has recently been revealed via Spin, is named for a city in Azerbaijan that was emptied and destroyed during 1993’s Nagorno-Karabakh War. It’s among the album’s more lyrical selections. It has a jerky rhythm which differs entirely from Who Lived Here? whose pleasant, flowing melody resonates even after the song has finished. The piano at the beginning plays a light-hearted and happy melody before it turns jerky with the notes becoming increasingly shortened. The music slows down in the middle of the song to build the tension back up before it ascends again into the dramatics Hauschka is so good at producing. The jerky rhythm is gradually reintroduced and the song starts to revert back to its original sound just before it ends.
Sanzhi Pod City hints towards a hint of jazz blended with some Spanish influences to create a loveable, dream-like song. Some classical Indian influences can also be heard; the piano’s bass notes and false drum sounds sound almost like a tabla, giving the impression of that sprawling, deep note heard at the end of each hit of the tabla. The sound achieved is like a rain drop; it falls and gains momentum but the power is in the impact with the ground. Hauschka goes to hit the piano key, the rain drop or idea has fallen and gained momentum but the real sound is achieved when Hauschka hits that key with a clever mind, energy and passion.
Craco sees Hauschka return to the classical aspects. Craco presents a highly evocative, emotional and classical piano melody. It’s beautifully played and even more beautifully composed, the emotion contained within this track can be felt. Craco is another star track on Abandoned City. The fancy techniques Hauschka uses have been stripped back on this song to leave, on full view, the wonderful crafting of a pure classical piano melody.
Barkerville introduces more world influences to this album. The piano has been distorted to gain the effect of percussion which has an African tribal influence. Hauschka is superb at re-working and manipulating the piano to sound like other instruments. On top of this, he then blends styles that can sometimes seem to be an odd mix. Hauschka produces a truly and utterly unique sound for the music industry today.
The final track, Stromness, is a dark and crackled song to end on lending it to be very atmospheric and dramatic. The piano can be heard playing a classically influenced melody softly in the background while the slow percussion sounds add a level of tension to this track. Hauschka uses the full range of notes on the piano ranging from bass to high to create a superb finishing track for an outstanding, beautiful, clever and breath-taking album. Abandoned City is currently streaming in full on The Hype Machine.
Hauschka’s Abandoned City is out on March 18 (March 17 in the UK).