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Critiques CD: Ulrich Schnauss | A Long Way To Fall

Ulrich Schnauss tends to make Pretty music with a capital P that’s simultaneously as light and fluffy as kitten shaped clouds wafting through a summer sky and as dense as the thickest fog. It’s epic romantic pop that’s lost its way in a room full of synthesizers. Often labeled “shoegaze pop,” his current glitchy, maximalist outing is a bit like a featherweight Pantha du Prince (but not nearly as resolved or perfect, and is pretty rather than ravishingly beautiful) with pretensions towards Kraftwerk’s pop perfection. Ulrich’s penchant for celestial harmonies and synthetic strings that flutter like angels wings can veer uneasily from the sublime into the hellish chasm of cheesy emotion, though the overall prettiness means that it can take a while to realize you’re stuck in a bubbling fondue and not suspended on a cloud of cotton candy. Of course, such is the nature of pretty pop—particularly when rendered abstract by being purely instrumental—and both fondue and cotton candy can be very tasty in their own ways. The second half of the album descends into darker territory and tends towards the emotionally overwrought (both in the sense of being overworked and emotionally bombastic). The beat driven “I Take Comfort In Your Ignorance” sounds out of place after all the tinkling synths and “A Forgotten Birthday” seems to borrow from Art Of Noise’s “Moments In Love” and, in doing so, highlights how banal Schnauss’ attempts at the sublime can be. Still, A Long Way To Fall is a very pretty, maximalist album of synth pop that attempts to scale the pop heights of a Kraftwerk (one of the many ghosts in this machine) or Art of Noise but ultimately remains resolutely earthbound and weighed down by its complexity and Wagnerian ambitions despite moments of sheer sonic synth glory. Ironically, the last minute or so of the last song may be the most interesting part of the whole album and it’s Schnauss’ moments of genius and sonic sophistication peppered throughout A Long Way To Fall that make the rest of the album so disappointing.