Hauschka Foreign Landscapes

Volker Bertelmann is a rare breed of composer, full of remarkable contrasts. His early albums as Hauschka were swollen with the sound of prepared piano, in the John Cage vein, toying with aural textures on the fringes of the accepted classical Western notions of musicality. His minimalist influences have also been very distinct, economically wringing every ounce of interest from all notes in his employ without sounding either overwrought or stagnant. Yet, he merges the two streams of experimental art music with an uncanny, natural grace. Volker's third album takes the contrasts one step further, as Foreign Landscapes has the illustrious San Francisco, CA 12-piece string and wind ensemble Magik*Magik Orchestra on board for the majority of the release. All these capable hands appear alongside Volker's prepared piano through much of the release, fleshing out Hauschka's sonic textures, adding new depth. The album begins with "Alexanderplatz," the whole orchestra in tow. It is a whimsical, jubilant piece that immediately draws listeners in for the long, but satisfying, journey to spiritually opposite, heart-wrenching closer "Trost," featuring two violins and two cellos. This is inarguably Hauschka's most fully realized, moving and unequivocally gorgeous album yet. (Fat Cat)