Ulrich Schnauss Goodbye

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Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: ambient shoegaze, downtempo
Others: Enya, M83, Caribou (Manitoba), Genaro

Goodbye marks the culmination of one man’s journey. More accurately, the journey one man’s sound has taken him and all of us who have been enlightened by it on since the turn of the millennium. And now, some six years later, we can look back on his City Centre Offices debut Far Away Trains Passing By and simply drown in reflection. Those simple, bubbly chill-out arrangements almost seem quaint by comparison (we have the technology: we can make you bigger, denser, more epic), yet their direction is all so obvious now. This shimmering path and desolate theme was confirmed by the release of 2003’s A Strangely Isolate Place, and the sound inched that much closer to the total self-awareness we are blessed to enjoy today.

With Goodbye here to round out the trilogy, this plucky German bedroom producer has built a formidable monument to his own talent, managing to outdo himself again. Ulrich painstakingly orchestrated as many as a hundred audio tracks to play simultaneously and in perfect harmony in each individual work of glowing ambiance, without losing his penchant for uplifting electronic pop hooks in the ocean-deep mix. Although it’s delivered with effortless grace, this was no easy task. “Medusa” and “Stars,” with their parade of synth distortion and lilting vocals, is like listening to three Joy Zipper tracks at once or two My Bloody Valentine’s at half speed without being unsettlingly busy or even remotely ramshackle. Every time “Stars” kicks in, I wonder if my headphones are going to melt from the sheer density of it all. The first nine tracks were all built this way, oozing enough contemplative lysergia to fill an Olympic-sized pool. To leave us with a hint for the sequel, the album closing “For Good” features an extended acoustic intro (heavily layered, of course) and nibbling guitar work throughout.

Where one journey ends, so another begins, and this one just can’t hide the hope. The train has finally pulled into the station.

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