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F.S. Blumm - Zweite Meer

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Artist: F.S. Blumm

Album: Zweite Meer

Label: Morr Music

Review date: Jun. 14, 2005

F.S. Blumm’s Zweite Meer (“Second Sea,” in English) is an almost entirely acoustic affair, something of a novelty for Germany’s Morr Music label. Blumm relies primarily on acoustic guitar and mallet instruments (xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone), occasionally augmenting them with electronic effects and tape loops. But while the instrumentation may be acoustic, the mood and technique often recall electronic and ambient music: Blumm’s compositions emphasize rhythmic interplay, repeated motifs, and atmospherics more than distinct melodies and memorable chord progressions, embracing a subdued, hypnotic aesthetic that owes as much to Brian Eno as it does to Brian Wilson. What’s most remarkable about Zweite Meer is the way that it reconciles the influences of the two aforementioned Brians, pairing lush harmonies and Beach Boys-inspired instrumentation with a detached, meditative attitude.

The 12 tracks on Zweite Meer vary widely in structure: some are conventionally song-like and melodic (the hummable “Bitt”), while others are a comparatively abstract, tending more towards sound sculpture. As a whole, the album has a decidedly melancholic quality, favoring sluggish tempos and funereal melodies. The pervasive sense of longing is most potently expressed in the wistful clarinet and harmonium melodies on “Nie,” a track that sounds something like a Pet Sounds instrumental on downers.

Elsewhere, the ablum takes stylistic detours into jazz guitar (“Nah”) and Fahey style fingerpicking (“Lunten”); clearly a skilled guitarist, Blumm makes effective use of both styles without veering too far from his personal aesthetic. Perhaps in an effort to create an aura of intimacy, the album is filled with “accidental” sounds that would normally be removed, like the creaking wood of his acoustic guitar and footsteps echoing through the studio. On the other hand, heavy reverb is also a constant, mitigating the intimacy with a sense of distance and obscurity.

While Zweite Meer never rises above whisper-level intensity, it can be surprisingly compelling. Blumm creates a seemingly paradoxical beauty that feels at the same time both cold and detached and deeply felt. His songs on Zweite Meer are perhaps best described as musical snapshots: more reflective and nostalgic than passionate and immediate, they evoke not first-hand experience but rather the act of looking at a photograph, contemplating things past at a safe remove.

By Michael Cramer

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