Hauschka Versions of the Prepared Piano

[Karaoke Kalk; 2007]

Styles: prepared piano, quirky remix album
Others: Anthony Pateras, John Cage, a stiffer Jamie Lidell

Hauschka (Düsseldorf’s Volker Bertelmann) has been playing prepared piano for years, issuing one of his long-players with the reputable 130701 imprint. This release compiles a charming set of remixes of pieces from 2005’s The Prepared Piano by an international cast of producers. It succeeds in ways a lot of remix albums don’t: by remaining coherent without being monotonous and adventurous without being indulgent. Versions of the Prepared Piano makes for a pleasant and curious listen. Each of the songs here could stand alone, outside of the context of this album, but together they complement and enrich each other by bringing fresh voices and eccentricities to the natural idiosyncrasies of Hauschka’s work.

My two favorite pieces from the album embody its stylistic poles: the Barbara Morgenstern track is the poppiest number, combining her candid, dew-soaked voice with spritely minimal beats and Hauschka’s piano chords falling around in broken chunks of harmony. "Assembler's Mix" is a squiggly rumination on the underlying piano line that packs compositional U-turns into a succinct, engaging grid (the piano ends up sounding like a lovely, glitched-out dial tone in this one). Other songs dabble in camp (“Rocket Man”) and cuteness (“Mr. Spoon”) or moody electropop (TG Mauss’ “Things”). Frank Bretschneider makes a strong showing for the German minimal crowd in “Stumm.” He melts Bertelmann’s piano line into a dark plasma that pulses through the track in murky, humid trails of delay. Good stuff.

The idea behind the prepared piano is jamming a bunch of disparate elements into one musical body to make unorthodox sounds that can both please and perplex. With Versions of…, Hauschka and his interlocutors have succeeded in making a record that reflects the virtues and versatility of its principal instrument.

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