Because you probably haven’t heard it before, go ahead and spend six minutes digesting Ulrich Schnauss’ 2003 gem “A Letter From Home.” It is not remarkable, just a perfectly executed, wonderfully warm eruption of montage-pop – one of those rare moments you almost resent for being so pretty. The thirtysomething German producer has been generating this sort of heart-swollen beatifica to almost no cultural penetration, critical or commercial, for nearly two decades now. He’s the crossover soda-pop electro-merchant that never was, a would-be Ben Gibbard collaborator, the type of guy who makes giant, life-affirming, euphoria-glazed dance music for a small, but dedicated segment of the population.
So here’s one of his frostier records – Underrated Silence – I’ll let you decide if the title is too much of a fold. A partner-project with the similarly-minded engineer Mark Peters, it’s a breezy, amniotic thing structured out of gauzy synths and deformed, sepia-toned guitars. It’s the sort of album that comes right of his wheelhouse; an ambient, pulse-less voyage in gentle, milky texture. Like most things the man writes, it’s undeniably pretty, but it’s hard accepting its courtesy as a long-term concern.
Hey, at least give him credit for sticking with a concept. There’s no use in talking about Underrated Silence in songs because, well, they’re just momentarily pauses in a dulcet glide. A few new elements fold in, the vaguely ragga bounce to “Rosen im Asphalt,” the globby fuzz on “Amoxicillin,” but there’s no doubt these men wanted to build a record first. A polite, undemanding excursion – frustratingly stuck to its own sonic landscape. For Schnauss, a man who’s greatest moments come when he’s willfully ambivalent about any level of pragmatism, it can leave a little to be desired. These computer-furnished drips of contentment are not rare, and they can make Ulrich sound annoyingly ordinary. Perhaps the presence of a collaborator reigned his cosmic demeanor into a more grounded realm, here’s hoping next time he gets back to the stars.