Utilizing an assortment of non-musical odds and ends (gaffer tape, kitchen foil, magnets, felt wedges, bottle tops, ping pong balls) to modify an ordinary piano’s innards, Hauschka’s new LP, Foreign Landscapes, due October 12 via FatCat Records’ 130701 imprint, is a stunning and inventive work that boldly extends the Dusseldorf-based pianist/composer’s repertoire. Typically the one-man endeavor of Volker Bertelmann, his latest LP features a 12-piece string and wind ensemble from San Francisco’s Magik Magik Orchestra, enveloping his whimsical compositions in a rich orchestral score.
Foreign Landscapes, as the title suggests, is an album that captures travel, like a memory map of location snapshots. Always evocative, Hauschka’s compositions here sing with the urgency and movement of exploration – the rushing exhilaration of new cities and new environments. Most of the tracks borrow their titles directly from real locations: “Alexanderplatz” comes from the famous square with the iconic television tower in the former East Berlin; “Mount Hood” takes its name from the northern Oregon mountain, visible from Portland; “Madeira” the Portuguese island where Bertelmann once found himself happily stranded for a few days; “Union Square” is that rare oasis of space in the middle of Manhattan.
Dynamic, brimming with character and color, Foreign Landscapes retains its author’s distinctive musical voice and leads the listener through a beautifully balanced collection, moving from delicate solo piano lyricism to a propulsive, robust minimalism.
While Hauschka’s profile has steadily risen on the strength of two well-received albums (2007’s Room To Expand and 2008’s Ferndorf), it is his fascinating live show, allowing the craftsman to reveal how his art is created, that really sets him apart. The New York Times called his recent SXSW performance “Ingenious and exquisite,” while Rolling Stone exclaimed: “Satie feather-drops, gorgeous string plucks, transfixing rattles. Stillness is the move.”SHARE