Snowflakes and Car Wrecks is bound to please anyone who enjoyed last fall’s Ferndorf. The seven tracks on this EP are from the same recording session, and while the sound here is stylistically similar, this collection makes a nice addendum to the long player.
Hauschka, or Volker Bertelmann, is a classically trained piano prodigy from Dusseldorf, Germany. His oeuvre is rooted in German classical tradition, but like fellow modern composer Max Richter, he has a post-classical edge. Mr. Voltermann often uses prepared player technique, a tradition that was started over 100 years ago by French composer Erik Satie. Objects like screws, cards, and pieces of plastic are inserted between the piano strings, which gives the keys a percussive crack.
Snowflakes is minimal in sound and instrumentation, and the piano and strings sound straight from the recording booth. On "Wonder," Mr. Bertelmann displays his early affinity for hip-hop. The prepared piano riff is a backbeat for an evolving three-chord progression. Eventually a soft upright bass plods in, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to hear Common rhyming on top.
The prize on Snowflakes is the opus "Tanz." The simple, elegiac violin and cello duel at the beginning is a fitting start for what becomes an epic song of considerable emotional depth. The piano repetitions here are Glass-like, and if the strings were substituted for reeds, Music in Fifths would come to mind. Mr. Voltermann plays up and down the keys, alternating between high and low accents to bring out the full range of the piano.
The EP’s mood is deep and ponderous, from the smoky lounge vibe of "Kindelberg" to the Gymnopedie -like ruminations on "Tagtraum." As its name implies, Snowflakes and Car Wrecks is meant for winter listening. But the open space on this EP is good for curled up meditations in any weather.