The best thing about taking five weeks out from ASIP, is that the wait for Ulrich’s new album went a lot faster than I had hoped. Well, as I type, i’m a lucky so-and-so with it pumping through my headphones and i’ve just put my order in for the deluxe LP through Domino too. But… you ask, is that because you’re a life-long fan and your god-damn website is named after one of his albums, or is ‘A Long Way to Fall’ actually that good?
OK, let’s start where we normally end up with Ulrich’s music. He’s an innovator, he’s original, and in many peoples eyes, a complete genius. He’s moved from Drum’n Bass, to ethereal electronica, made one of my favourite albums of all time, he plays in a Shoegaze band, makes guitars sound even better alongside Mark Peters and Jonas Munk, turns tracks into magic with many-a-remix, produces with that fine lady who said “it’s going to be a fine night tonight”, likes to DJ acid and techno, and more recently has even dabbled with a chap named ASC on Auxiliary. So what are we expecting now?
If like me, you’re a follower of Ulrich (yes, he’s done well this year on the social-media front) then you’ll have heard some of his mixes, top tens and inspirations. And in all honesty, his EP with ASC late last year made complete sense to me given his commentary on tracks over the past few months. The green vinyl, will long be treasured in my collection, and I expected more of the same approach with his new album too. In the strictest sense, I don’t think that’s too far off the mark either.
“A Long Way to Fall” is ambitious by Ulrich’s standards. Apart from ‘Goodbye’ which was one of the first of his albums to breach out and focus on vocals, this album for me is Ulrich’s most varied, most intelligent piece of work to date. Complexity, is often a word I associate with Ulrich’s rhythms, drum patterns and synths, and a listen to this album (then maybe a quick tour of his studio) will help prove that very fact.
Bigger drums, punchier rhythms and some of the most ridiculous synth-work to ever grace a melodic electronica track have made this album stand, jump, punch and suck the very air that surrounds anything in-between your ears and the headphones you don for this album. Take the below track, ‘A Ritual In Time And Death’ and you’d be forgiven for thinking Jean Michel Jarre had graced Ulrich’s london studio for an afternoon and the duo had gone wild on about ten sets of synthesizers. There’s unexpected samples and small bouncing snippets over a tumbling bassline in ‘Broken Homes’ that immediately reminded me of Kettel and Secedes latest album, ‘When Can‘ – quirky, unexpected yet grounded in a growing melody you can only ever come to expect from Ulrich.
There are however tracks that make you feel a little more at home, such as the title track ‘A Long Way To Fall’, ‘Like A Ghost In Your Own Life’ and ‘A Forgotten Birthday’, but the days of slow burners such as one of my all-time favourites, ‘Monday Paracetamol‘ are far, far away. These tracks are like a new lease of life in Ulrich’s sound – rich with colour, evolving drum patterns and as always, layers and layers that creep in, explode and take the track up an unexpected notch at every given moment. Which is why I now go back to my earlier statement around Ulrich’s EP with ASC – if you listened to ’77’ you’ll know just how upbeat and melodic this release was. Sure, there’s some darker more atmospheric moments in there, but this approach certainly seems to have rubbed off in one way or another on this album.
On first listen, I have to admit, I was a little taken back. I glazed through much of it, and didn’t spend too much time on the intricacies – almost too excited to listen as I often am with any new Ulrich stuff. But revisiting it now and many other times these past few days, you really come to respect just how much work goes into an Ulrich Schnauss album. I think ‘A Long Way To Fall’ overall, might be a little too ‘melodic’ and upbeat for any electronica fan being introduced to Ulrich on this album – they would sit and wonder how on earth he could conjure up such vivid patterns and colors. But for those that have grown to love him, you’ll recognise his signature sound and respect him for evolving, for experimenting with an untold amount of synthesizers; for manipulating them like only he could and for creating an album that no-one else in this world could even come close to achieving. It’s a signature sound that just keeps growing and growing, and long may it last.
That just leaves me with one final thing to say on this album, which is probably going to take it to an altogether new level of admiration… a remix EP is planned for the bass heavy track ‘I Take Comfort In Your Ignorance’, with Arovane (YES AROVANE – old CCO label mate of Ulrich’s and his first stuff since about 2004!!), ASC (anything else Ulrich can do with the Auxiliary boss is a blessing) and Tycho – well we all know how much Tycho is going to absolutely blast the underlining of that track with his sublime sun-drenched guitars (evidence here).
‘A Long Way To Fall’ is out on Domino on 12th February with the deluxe Vinyl Package and CD available to pre-order now.