Ulf Lohmann
Because Before
Kompakt
2001
B+

the best music, in my opinion, is music that hints. Music that suggests the future of its course, but never outright states what is happening until the right moment. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for clarity, but I'm also highly interested in the delay, the omission of the rock and roll paradigm of returning to the original key at the end of the song, or the triumphal last stanza of the song. IDM, in some cases, has been one of the most successful genres in upturning the listener's expectations. Frequently omissions, mistakes, and wrong notes are an integral part of the process; a sort of willful disregard for the expected sounds that a listener has grown up with. Throughout Kompakt's history, the label has consistently released complex IDM/pop albums that are some of the finest examples of a new genre of producers. This new genre of producer embraces melody and mistake, explication and intimation, and complexity and simplicity. On this Ulf Lohmann's first full length release for the label, two EP's are brought together, "Because" and "Before."


The album begins with an Indian sounding (a sitar, I believe) instrument playing a simple repeated note with a bass line of synths underneath guiding the way for the xylphone melody to come in. The elements keep building until a skittering, yet stable drum beat comes in to rein the sitar back in, as it had fallen out of time along the way. Much like a Mogwai track the elements keep piling on each other until they are taking away one by one until the track stops in its track only allowing the synth bassline to lead us into the next track. It's an interesting track because it is one of the few with a fully defined drum pattern. This album is, for the most part, an ambient one. But, one of the main elements of a proper ambient album is long evolving tracks that stretch out, which is why this album steers away from such a comparision because no song is longer than six minutes. In fact, the best description for what this album is, is a moniker that the Kompakt label has begun to use in their yearly compilations: "Pop Ambient."


Overall, the album is strong and well balanced, but the best two tracks are the closers. An orchestral wash begins the first of the two, but something is wrong, it's as if the song is enveloped in a mist, allowing you to look in to what is happening, but to not see clearly as to the contents. Unfortunately, it only lasts for about two minutes before it fades into the majestic finale. This song continues along in the same vein, but clears up the melody so that it is heard easily. It reminds me of my church's organ at home, actually. The bass line lies underneath providing the unobtrusive basis for the song, only appearing when your concentration wants to focus on it. It is a beautiful song, one that goes almost nowhere in its four and a half minute length, but one that I wish could be stretched on for far longer. This is one of the few songs that has everything clearly stated, everything is on the table for you to enjoy. And it works very well.


On the rest of the tracks, though, there are melodies and harmonies floating around, but they aren't major key, American sounding things. It seems that Lohmann has taken it upon himself to use distinctly non-Western modes of expressing himself, in his music, and judging by the album cover which features a Polynesian woman in the process of dancing. On more tracks than not, I find myself humming possible counter melodies or rythmns to the ones brought forth by Lohmann. This may come as a turn off to some listeners, as though, Lohmann was unable to bring out all the possibilities of his music. But I find it to be something else, entirely. It's a music of possibility. You add your own experience to the music, you add your own frame of reference to the melody. It's a music rife with the ability to change and to mutate upon every listen for me. In other words, Kompakt strikes again.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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