The nebulous zone between classical and electronic music seems to be more and more densely populated these days. Techno pioneers like Jeff Mills and Carl Craig, folk-inflected acts like Clogs or North Sea Radio Orchestra, and unclassifiable acts like JÃ³hann JÃ³hannsson, Peter Broderick, Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka and Max Richter are all creating music that refuses to gear itself to the standard performance arenas of gig, club or concert hall, living instead in a strange space all its own.
German duo Swod are very much occupants of this realm. There are various acoustic instruments at play here, but it’s Stephan WÃ¶hrmann’s piano that leads — frequently wistful in tone, melodies trickling and meandering out at their own pace, chords hanging in the air while Oliver Doerell’s electronic treatments play games with context and imagination, adding layer upon layer of uncanny atmosphere to the pieces.
On some tracks (“Sans Peau” and “Hellerau”, for example), rhythmic, rippling piano lines take the part that sequenced synths might in a techno track, invoking both Philip Glass, the dreamy musical paintings of Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Hauschka’s brilliant recent Salon Des Amateurs album. Other tracks seem barely there, yet are all the more powerful for it. On “Gemein” and “Insel,” field recordings and hints of the sounds of obsolete technology (Gramophone arm swinging over? Tape hiss?) are placed strategically to set a stage where complex emotional and intellectual dramas are allowed to elegantly unfold as their own internal logic demands. Like Raymond Carver short stories, they set a scene, introduce an idea, then leave you hanging. In their emptiness, meaning and feeling seem to accumulate like ghosts.