The Krauts' musical style--usually characterized by stiff rhythms and college degrees rather than gusto or romanticism--is usually an acquired taste. But love 'em or hate 'em, they've made a big mark on popular music, especially of the electronic variety. While to the unfamiliar his name may conjure up images of some German egghead snickering and crouching above his laptop, Ulrich Schnauss makes music that's much more powerful and intuitive than the sum of his software programs.
Born in the small fishing town of Kiel, young Schnauss was enamored with music--especially effects-heavy acts like My Bloody Valentine and Vangelis, prompting him to relocate to the cultural epicenter of Berlin in 1996. Like most modern electronic musicians worth their salt, Ulrich tossed around different monikers and styles like hot potatoes, until eventually finding himself most comfortable in his own skin. Schnauss found a home for his first album, Far Away Trains Pass By, on the City Centre Offices label; it was a record that defined his bleeding-heart shoegazer vibe and put him on the map with fans and critics of electronic music worldwide. Urlich's latest album, A Strangely Isolated Place, expands his formula to new heights and emotions.
While comparisons to established luminaries like Boards of Canada would be understandable, Isolated Place is a sweeping journey through a world of its own devices. Ulrich's girlfriend, Judith Beck, adds vocals--which possess a deep emotional resonance, even though they're often unintelligible and processed until they sound like soaring energy beams. Tracks like "On My Own" could fool you into thinking you're on a conveyor belt to the afterlife as Beck's seraphic voice pierces the synthy, automated haze.
This Wednesday at Holocene, Ulrich comes paired with the similarly lush M83 for an evening primed for mechanical melodrama.