Live Review: Hauschka

18 November 2015 | 4:33 pm | Guido Farnell

"Bertelmann achieves the prepared piano objective of forcing sounds that would not ordinarily be associated with this instrument."

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Since the late '90s, Volker Bertelmann has released a string of albums under the Hauschka moniker. Deploying his skills as a classically trained pianist into more experimental contexts while introducing electronic elements, he's produced pretty chilled but interesting records over the years. He introduces himself at the start of the gig in shy, dulcet tones before explaining that his first-ever Australian show is scheduled just after he arrived in our fair land. Understandably tired and nervous, he's physically present but suggests that his soul is still catching up with his body.

Tonight's show focuses on the moody atmospheric vibes of last year's album, Abandoned City. Bertelmann presents just two long pieces that draw from compositions that feature on Abandoned City but, when played live, there's a looser, more improvised feel. Across his career Bertelmann has championed the prepared piano. Opening the show and striking the keys of an impressive grand piano, he produces a strange, electro-acoustic sound. Video of the piano projects on the stage's back wall and reveals that he has reached deep into the heart of the instrument to place all manner of noise-making objects across its metal strings. Microphones inside the piano feed the sound into electronic effects, which produces an almost-random, percussive accompaniment to the chords he hits. This is how Bertelmann achieves the prepared piano objective of forcing sounds that would not ordinarily be associated with this instrument.

As the tracks evolve, Bertelmann moves from dreamy cascading chords to embrace repetitive, staccato notes that strangely unleash an electro/acoustic/techno sound that brings to mind the IDM of the early '90s. The simplicity of his compositions reflect the influence of minimalism and the focus shifts from the piano to the texture of the sounds of ping pong balls bouncing around inside the piano or a metal tambourine jittering over the piano's taut wires. The results are abstract but Bertelmann's chilled atmospheric vibes invite daydream and always remain accessible. After 90 minutes, he removes all the objects from inside the piano to bring us down on some very elegant notes that summon the crowd to their feet in enthusiastic ovation.