2017 repress of Hauschka's debut album Substantial, originally released in 2004. Piano music is highly personal music, which is the reason why piano solo albums occupy a particular place of importance in a musician's work -- not that Volker Bertelmann wants to hype his first foray to that extent, hence the pseudonym. Nevertheless Hauschka is personal music, simply because it has accompanied him for so long, because it has always been there in some shape or form, because it has always been important. The title points to the fact that it is dealing with something of importance, not just a few finger exercises or background ivory-tinkling.
Substantial is a snapshot of a life spent with the black-and-white keys, and is simultaneously both moment and history, thought and feeling, yet without turning into a unduly meaningful concept album. Rather, Substantial is based upon the least conceptual of all concepts: Improvisation. Each track is based upon an opening sequence, the theme of which is extended, modulated, and varied with, as far as form or length is concerned, no specific objective in mind. What has come out is music of a differing, well, substance: Eleven atmospheric pieces in which a variety of different techniques overlap and rhythmical images with narrative depth unfold; in which further instruments, such as double bass or vibraphone make a fleeting appearance, at once lending a hint of pop, but at no time detracting from the piano as central instrument; in which experimental and electronic music is accessed without compromising the directness and ease of the improvisational approach.
The confluence of Bertelmann's multiple musical personality can be apprehended here: Whilst the pop-oriented musician plays the melody, the electronic producer gently experiments with sounds, leaving the pianist quite literally to manipulate the piano -- plucking the strings with a plectrum, dampening them or bowing them lengthways to achieve a variety of percussive effects. Following the recording, the tracks were adapted, supplemented, and finalized. Using multi-tracking, up to four piano tracks were superimposed, electronic sounds from the laptop added, as well Stefan Schneider's bass (Mapstation, To Rococo Rot, Music A.M.) on three tracks. Substantial is a recollection of the foundation of a musician's life, drawing upon the roots of diverse projects and releases over the past fifteen years. Hauschka is yet another facet of Bertelmann's palette, not a change of direction. Includes download code.