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HAUSCHKA – Room To Expand (Fat Cat)

Posted: January 13th, 2007, by Pascal Ansell

The piano is undoubtedly the king of all instruments. It’s extremely versatile, has a huge range and it is probably the easiest instrument to express oneself on, and that’s not to mention the extensive timbres accessible through the push of a pedal. ‘Room to Expand’ from Fat Cat’s latest artist, Hauschka (Volker Bertelmann to his mum) furthers my point. This Düsseldorf-based pianist decided that, in the same vein as minimalist maverick John Cage, he’d chuck a bunch of screws inside a piano and then see what happens. Well, not quite. He ‘prepared’ the piano: clamping wedges of leather, felt or rubber between the strings, weaving guitar strings around the piano’s gut, that sort of thing. The result is fantastic: the album collates various clicks, pangs, scrapes and modified notes in layer upon layer of texture into a lovely multifaceted listen.

‘Paddington’ is a sprightly bundle of timbres and knockings, and it swells with tiers of assorted piano clatters, which is the idea running through ‘Room To Expand’. The ingeniously titled ‘Watercolour Milk’ slowly builds up one chord with sundry embellishments and one driving knock, and ends with echoing string scrapings. The serene beauty of ‘Sweet Spring Come’ is the album’s standout track – rather poignant considering the dismal English weather of late. It’s lead by a clever piano plonk acting as a snare, then minutes after a florid piano line, in comes a delicate bassline and a ethereal strum on the piano’s strings.

‘Room To Expand’ largely resembles the masterful piano vignettes of Aphex Twin’s ‘Drukgs’ album, and a more condensed version of John Cage’s ‘Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano’, yet Hauschka’s effort will take many, many listens before it becomes tired or predictable. Through close listening over time, the album unravels – it’s possible to discover a new sound in each song with every listen. This already has to be a contender for the most outstanding, even unique, album of 2007.

Pascal Ansell

Pascal Ansell

Pascal is a fearsome, hungry giant trapped in the body of a hyperactive boy. On a mission to waste no more than 14 seconds per day, he bounds from activity to activity like a deer being chased by a cheetah. Follow him now, as in ten year's time he'll be a leading voice in something or other. He's also writing down every word you say in a small book so watch out!


2 Responses to HAUSCHKA – Room To Expand (Fat Cat)

  1. marceline

    Band names in capitals in the titles please. You make the RSS feed sad. (I have fixed them this time)

  2. pascalansell

    My apologies.