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Arovane is the project of Germany based electronic artist Uwe Zahn. Zahn has collaborated with a host of renowned artists, with the likes of Phonem, Christian Kleine and Jake Mandell to name a few. His music has been released by various labels – namely Din, Morr and City Centre Offices. The body of Arovane’s repertoire is nowhere as large as that of, say, Autechre’s but throughout the years, his full length albums (Atol Scrap, Tides, Lilies) and other notable releases have enjoyed considerable notice, respect and admiration from critics and music enthusiasts alike.
And it’s well deserved.
‘Sprechen sie IDM?’ is a humorous tagline which Arovane likes to make use of, and as a result you have a vague idea of what’s in store for you before you’ve even heard anything.
However generic complacency is not on the cards here and this instantly seems the case the moment ‘Atol Scrap’ starts off. Whilst listening to this album the fetters keeping me in touch with reality are briskly whisked away as I am quaffed into the scintillating miasma conducted by the former breakbeat producer. It really is quite brilliant. Everything here oozes an alluring benevolence which quite frankly is hard to come by in modern entertainment.
Certain parallels can be drawn with the insularly harmonious electro of early day Autechre, but the numbers on Atol Scrap are far more sophisticated, with complex textures dominating proceedings, keeping you captive more than ever. The melody on offer here is as warm and velvety as it can possibly get, with an altruistic presence haunting you as the album’s pulse invariably alters its course with gratifying effect.
What we have here are compositions which in comparison to say, Autechre’s Amber, are even more sublime and organic in nature, with the tracks blending seamlessly, even though the mood alters between one and the other : tracks such as ‘Thaem Nue’ have that new age creaminess while ‘Tascel 7′ is reminiscent of something out of Chiastic Slide (Autechre). This somehow does not contrast at all with the shimmering glide of ambient concoctions which is ‘Scrapen Te’, while the stirring and addictive ‘Revart Amx’ blends both aesthetics into one. All in all it falls short of an epic masterpiece, but definitely up there with the best releases of the genre.
‘Tides’ brought forward a fluidity of rhythm and colour that wasn’t as apparent in ‘Atol Scrap’. Zahn’ s tales of the sea touch a chord in listeners regardless of their age, background and their taste in music. Tides is ambient stuff that gushes and flows just like the sea when it’s powerful and forceful, not when it’s loud and disruptive. Organic sounds closely associated with the seaside drag themselves onto the album from some coast far from home, where Zahn collected them. They are blended so naturally with the guitars, harpsichord and the electronic backdrop onto which they are trusted that on one listening occasion I swear I could see the beach from my window. The experience of recording seems to have been therapeutic to make, and the album comes close to being a masterpiece of brooding beauty. It doesn’t merely evoke images and scenes of the beach. Zahn’s impression of the sea ambiance offers an insight into some nameless, pervasive mystery surrounding it . ‘ Seaside ‘, the album’s centerpiece is an exercise in veiled harmony and texture, a track that persuades you for an odd three minutes or so, to sit still in harmony with your natural surroundings. It makes you wonder whether Zahn has utilized some kind of subliminal trick here. Whatever it is, the effect this track has is mesmerizing, hypnotizing and satisfying.
Imagery is of the essence when one talks of Arovane. Tides is like an artist who paints canvases in our mind depicting nostalgia and a longing for the sea, centralising variations of colour and light within a single frame. This must be the album that fishermen pensioners who used to rely on the ocean for their livelihood put on repeat.
Electronic music, like any other musical genre, has never remained immune to the influence of its surroundings. Zahn spices his albums with ingredients borrowed from his traveling experiences. ‘Lilies’ is an album inspired by the surroundings of some Japanese city, most probably Tokyo, and mirrors the moody yet captivating splendor of its locales, providing both counterpoint and companion to its predecessor, Tides, which was inspired by the artist’s trip to France. The music here is brimming with texture, in fact it is a tool with which he creates atmosphere, to which he applies melodic curves and by which he builds emotional power.
Whereas the common denominator for Arovane’s full length efforts has always been the omnipresence of a brooding, evocative soundscape, here we also have extensive use of piano, which perhaps results in a more familiar sound to the average listener. On the same conventional plain are predominantly loopy beats which bounce to the fore with aplomb, providing a delectable punch to the proceedings.
Tracks such as the opening number throw you in the deep end from the off, yet canoodle with one’s tenuous, reflective psyche. This beautifully lush scope is rather alloyed by piano musings which follow suit on tracks like ‘windy wish trees’, at least if taken in terms of music acting as a vehicle for emotion. However, this correlation between the ethereal and the terrestrial works well, as the imposing rhythmic section works both ends towards the middle. ‘Pink lilies’ is a departure of sorts for Arovane with an actual human voice committed to tape, however the album’s cornerstone is undeniably the title track, just plain ‘lilies’ this time, with its upbeat, continental feel, a gorgeous voyage that colours in the rough sketches already outlined by what preceded it. This mood resurfaces now and again, yet mingled with throwbacks to previous works by the German virtuoso, which in turn don’t quite recapture that overpowering atmosphere present on ‘Tides’.
Arovane’s wealth of imagery reminds one of Boards of Canada but where the music of the reclusive Scottish duo and that of Zahn differs, is in approach and spirit. Whereas the former don’t shy away from widespread use of highly electronic beats and sounds, the German tends to steer as much as possible into the organic realm, as far as electronic wizardry is concerned.
Rumors have it that the artist has called it a day with this project. Having said that, we’re of the opinion that he’ll resurface soon enough.