Well, one week away from civilisation later and I’ve spent a lot of my free time listening to and mulling over Modern Classical musician Apparat’s latest release Krieg Und Frieden, a soundtrack to a theatrical interpretation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Lately it feels like I digest and process so much music, with much of that in the name of this blog, that it loses its meaning and significance at times, becomes a grind. I like to take my time over an album, consider its nuances and really get to enjoy it before I feel comfortable with writing words, but I get worried that I focus too much on looking for great music that I can sometimes overlook the genuinely good stuff that just falls into my lap. After some pretty careful inspection, I think this is certainly one of the best albums I’ve heard in some time, and yet even after many listens I can still only talk about the music at face value.
We open out to the pair “44” and it’s alternate “44 (Noise Version)”. The opener introduces us gracefully with some sombre violins before switching to the much more electronic and considerably more cathartic noise version. Its 6 minutes of carefully crafted guitar drones rise and fall, leaving you caught between feeling hopeless and then optimistic with rich swathes of rising drones outpouring emotion before plateauing and then subsequently bottoming out into darker recesses as they grind and churn along.
There is another side to this Electronic-cum-Modern Classical album though, and it’s introduced with “LightOn”. The drones are cooled off for the time being, relegated to the background (not that they make much of a recurrence throughout), and are replaced with thick jittering basslines and bastardised orchestral instrumentation, culminating in a curious mashup with the (admittedly dull) vocals placing the cherry on top. The second of the two vocal pieces comes in right at the end in closer “Violent Sky”, which happens to be one of my favourite tracks of the album. Once again, the electronic undertones are much more prominent here but it also makes excellent use of piano, which forms the cornerstone of the track and helps build a varied tapestry when coupled with the more progressive aspects of the music whilst the enigmatic vocals spin out above;
“I’ve seen you all along
The place they call it homeCome on down beneath the violent sky”
But back to the natural progression of the album; “LightOn” is chased up by the darkest track of the record yet, the curiously titled “Tod”; British people may be familiar with the expression “on your tod” or in other words on your own, and this track certainly has a hopeless, isolated atmosphere to it. Its unfortunately short duration is filled with melancholic drones, forged by stringed instruments or by electronic means it’s impossible to say, although the processed guitar does make an intrusion and helps keep the piece mean and abrasive.
The gorgeous “PV” outshines everything this album has to offer though, in my opinion. Its tortuously tantalising buildup uses delicate layers of a sparse orchestra and thin electronica to creep along before it goes stratospheric, building up to an initially surprising crescendo with the establishment of the almost cute synth riff that forms the foundation of the track patterned with grating sine waves and slowly introduced stringed instrumentation. Its journey is carefully and precisely mapped out over some 4 minutes before it finds its feet with the more majestic horns making an appearance and a great percussive bassline is lain down and we see those thick guitars return, all the while with some soaring trumpet warbles in and out of the freshly confident melody. It’s fantastically crafted and extremely compelling.
The more classical, perhaps even medieval, sounds that I sort of expected this album to establish are finally introduced in “K&F Thema (Pizzicato)”, with its very curt acoustic guitars and violins and various other stringed instruments paving the primary melody before being accompanied by more droning sections and then piano, the initial melody and instruments being swept up in their wake as fresh textural elements pile on. The followup and presumably inspiration for the pizzicato version is “K&F Thema”, which sees an initial abandonment of the more staccato melodies previously employed and an uptake in more rounded and shaped sounds, tinkling in on a xylophone before being carried by the swelling orchestra behind as the violins and drums pick up and carry the track before bottoming out suddenly.
Talking about the emotional content of this album is difficult for me because, well, I suppose I enjoy it more for its craftsmanship than the message(s) it’s trying to impart. I feel like not knowing the context of this album is probably quite significant, since I’m sure it’s emotional overprint is much more obvious when accompanied with the theatre production it was created for, or even if I knew the plot of War and Peace. I enjoy its variability, its ability to jump from sobre and melancholic to bright and curious at the flip of a switch using subtlety nuanced instrumentation, how its able to bring together so many textures into a coherent whole and create a excellent marriage of electronic and more classical ideologies. It’s a clever album, certainly something I’ve underplayed but I’m so tired and creatively drained I dont know how to say it.