Thore Pfeiffer landed unexpectedly earlier this year with two tracks on Kompakt's 2015 edition of Pop Ambient. It's a compilation that has on many occasions, ended up being the first step into the ambient 'mainstream' for artists such as Leandro Fresco, Markus Guentner and even Donnacha Costello. Seeing Thore's name on this years edition mean't only one thing - Mr Wolfgang Voigt had found a new ambient prodigy to help spearhead the already infamous compilation series.
Following 2015's Pop Ambient compilation, Kompakt announced that the series would be getting its very own artist album releases. Leandro Fresco kicked things off with a stunning sound that we've loved since his first appearance in 2003 and now it's the turn of Thore Pfeiffer.
Im Blickfeld spans 11-tracks of gentle loop-based melodies that softly roll, tease and lull you closer to Thore's delicate and intricate touch. There's an immediate resonance with most Pop Ambient material that seems to play on this type of approach - it's Kompakt's trademark sound after-all, yet Thore has induced a gentle swirl of folk simplicity compared to previous executions.
The opening track, Allzu Nah, is perhaps the finest example and differentiator from previous Pop Ambient sound. Like watching a black-and-white film of a country fairground, that stalls, stops, and injects new faces in an almost playful yet haunting manner.
Was Ihr Wolt seems to book-end Thore's gentle approach at the start of the album, with a consistent alluring pulse, backed by subtle keys and a slowly emerging high-pitched detail. This track sets up the second section of the album which goes on to focus more on guitar and strings, with Nirgwendo providing the most energy out of the bunch, akin to a dimly lit moment from an 80's film-score, only to then twist into a more avant-garde approach on Kolibri - where plucked strings take center stage.
The final third of the album then descends into much warmer territory with Ebene - the stand-out track for me, featuring dark, driving swathes of color, transitioning into Falke - a beautiful airy filtered track that immediately revives the more recognized Pop Ambient sound.
Finishing on the fifteen-minute long Gipfel, the looping strings play ode to the addictive simplicity we find throughout the album. Thore's embrace of the Pop Ambient sound is clear to hear, but after years of tinkering from scratch, he's found a perfectly balanced palette that focuses purely on the distinct Pop Ambient sound. His relatively new approach to music production has perhaps, enabled him to focus on the quality and confidence of his approach instead of complicating, layering and diluting years of work.
Im Blickfeld is available now on Kompakt.
I had the chance to shoot Thore a few questions below to get to know a bit more about how he came to be, and his approach to production.
ASIP: Hi Thore, what are you up to right now?
TP: I'm at home resting in my living room and sure enough, pleased to answer your questions.
ASIP: How did your relationship with Kompkat come about?
TP: I had conventionally sent a demo to Kompakt. After a while, I had already stopped anticipating an answer then there was an email of Wolfgang Voigt and he asked me if I wanted to be featured on the next Pop Ambient compilation. Of course I said yes.
ASIP: There’s hope for us all! How did you begin producing music?
TP: At the very beginning, Thomas Gwosdz taught me everything I needed to know to make my first steps in producing. Everything further came by self-education.
ASIP: And what or who introduced you to ambient music specifically?
TP: In the Nineties I listened a lot of projects like "GAS","Biosphere" and others. Later on Thomas Gwosdz introduced me to the first Pop Ambient sampler. This stuff really fascinated me and got me hooked. From then on I knew it was this kind of music I wanted to make.
ASIP: So where did you go from there? Has this been your focus since the 90’s?
TP: I am open to all kinds of music and always looking for new styles and sounds. I tend to get bored if I would just concentrate on one music genre.
ASIP: You say that old-skool hip hop and rap were one of your first forays into music - do you still like that kind of music today?
TP: Yes, right, I still like to listen to old material every once in a while. The more recent stuff is not my cup of tea to be honest. I don’t really follow today’s Rap/Hip Hop scene. The last Rap record I bought was “Hotsaucecommiteeparttwo" by the Beastie Boys which I still like a lot.
ASIP: How would you describe your approach to music production?
TP: Almost every time a sample is the initial point of a new track. I experiment with it and manipulate it until I am satisfied with the result. Next I continue to gather further sounds around the sample.
Recently I use Ableton Live 9, FL Studio, Korg Electribe A and some acoustic instruments such as a Chinese flute. Sometimes when I am abroad I record all sorts of sounds with a mobile recording device.
ASIP: The album sounds like it features lots of instruments - especially strings. Are they played live?
TP: Most of the material I used on the album consists of samples of ethnical/world music, German "Volksmusik" and classical music. Every once in a while I use Korg Electribe, as well as some field recordings.
ASIP: “Volksmusik” – can you give us an introduction to this type of music?
TP: It’s a traditional German music with a very unique sound, featuring instruments like the Tuba, Accordion and the Zither. It’s the tone of the instruments which resonates with me rather than the music itself.
ASIP: I sense elements of "The Orb’s Okie Dokie It’s The Orb On Kompakt” on your album, or at the very least, some Thomas Fehlmann in there… where they an influence on this album at all?
TP: Funny and interesting question! But no, The Orb album and the stuff by Fehlmann did not influence me, at least not knowingly ;-) But these records are in my shelf and I like them a lot.
ASIP: What are some of your favourite records?
TP: There are several records such as: "The Cure - Disintegration, NIN - The Downward Spiral, Depeche Mode - Violator, Grandmaster Flash - The Message and Elvis Presley - That's The Way It Is" All my records were an important part of my early life.
ASIP: So what inspired the album? You reference art and painting as a big part of your approach - can you tell us a bit more about that?
TP: The total package of a record is very important to me. Music and cover art need to match, it needs to be one piece. While I was producing the recent album, pictures of landscapes flashed upon my inner eye, a hunter on a stand, having his eye on everything. Hence the title “Im Blickfeld” i.e. “Field Of Vision”. There’s definitely some sort of interplay of music and pictures within my head whilst producing.
ASIP: What did you have in-mind when producing the individual tracks on the album? Do they represent an approach similar to the artwork?
TP: A movie was running through my brain while producing the track “Kolibri” for example. I saw the bird flying from one blossom to the next looking for nectar. Very quickly it became clear that “Kolibri” would be the name of the track.
ASIP: What do you do outside of music to relax or escape?
TP: I am a passionate amateur chef. I love to prepare delicate food with fresh ingredients. Cooking always has a terrifically relaxing effect on me. It is as remedial to me as music. Plus, on sunny days I love to ease off at the Rhine riverbank having a couple of beers.