As is often the case with musicians who make their living crafting cinematic, neo-classical instrumental music, pianist Volker Bertelmann (aka Hauschka), has become an in-demand composer, creating scores for a handful of motion pictures, including 2016's Lion, for which he was Golden Globe-nominated.
With his first-non-commissioned work since 2014's uneven Abandoned City, the German composer has opted to produce something less serious and brooding with What If. Choosing to once again write his songs with his player piano, Hauschka largely abandons the traditional piano for the less-static and more adventurous sounds of a Roland synth and Eventide programmer.
The resulting nine tracks come off punchy and strangely jaunty, as Hauschka swings from pulsating electro ("I Can't Find Water"), to rhythmic soundscapes ("My Kids Live on Mars") and melodic space-age effects ("Familiar Things Disappear"), all while keeping his compositions sounding vibrant and colourful. But it's his penchant for augmenting the hammers and strings on his player piano here, and his dedication to crafting varied and absorbing rhythms there, that allows Hauschka to move along these tracks at a certain charming and loose pace that most composers won't.
On What If, Hauschka delivers an unbuttoned works that's just as revitalizing for the listener as it sounds for the artist. (Temporary Residence)