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F. S. Blumm - Ankern

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Artist: F. S. Blumm

Album: Ankern

Label: Staubgold

Review date: Jan. 15, 2003

More Songs About Buildings and Non-Foods

Certain albums have a unique ability to transcend their physical space. A rock album might convey a sentiment of excitement, a noise album crazed instability, but rarely can an album suggest something tangibly beyond itself or really pervade the physical space of the listener. Most film music is constructed to do this, but often with limited results. The music may suit the images being presented, but it is incapable of eliciting a response beyond the scope of the film. Albums of this unique tactile character usually catch me off guard, and F.S. Blumm’s Ankern is one such album.

I was expecting something sparse but staid; a typical melding of analog synthesizers and live instrumentation. Ankern begins with “Folge,” a slow acoustic guitar and bass meditation. After an initial two minutes of repetition, some syncopated drumming enters and the song quickly escalates into a samba-sounding pace. By the song's close, “Folge” had already eclipsed my initial expectations, and was indeed a very pleasant surprise. My ears perked up and I knew that the following half-hour of music would be quite unique. Expecting Morr Music, I had been given a lush tropical-pop version of Music for Airports.

The successes of Ankern reside in its limitless variety of sounds and diverse instrumentation. Whereas most instrumental albums find a distinct pace and stick to it, Blumm constantly shifts from deep, orchestrated Berlin-meets-New Orleans arrangements to sparse Arctic sounds. These descriptions themselves evidence the density of the music – the need to describe it in terms of place, the shifting intangible emotions that the songs encompass. In practice, the music adapts to any variety of environments, and I leave it to the listener to experiment with this at will.

The cover art invites these spatial comparisons as each side of the CD juxtaposes two photographs: One aqua-tinted and Winter, the other orange-hazed and warm. The solo bass musing of “Tuch” and the melancholic chamber music of “Tal” are decidedly late-January music. Alternately, the Caribbean tinged “Abgebildet” and the xylophone driven “Kerzer Winter” are (despite the latter’s title) pretty blissful. The cover photos have a “family album” quality about them that also comes across in the music; personal but not private, Blumm is inviting interaction, not detached observation.

Meanwhile, in between the straightforward “songs,” there are some sections of sound exploration. Both “Sprung” and its counterpart “Fehlsprung” dip into more elaborate post-production techniques (perhaps courtesy of guitar manipulator Joseph Suchy, who mastered the album) with minimalist-inspired results. Both of the “Sprung” pieces begin with simple guitar melodies that gradually morph into echoed washes of overlapped sounds. The techniques utilized in their creation do not sound contrived or out of place; with Blumm’s detailed tweaking, the songs fit seamlessly into Ankern’s architecture. Still dreamlike and contemplative, these tracks are worthy tangents that delightfully broaden the scope of the album.

You will be hard-pressed find a more apt album to invade and adapt to your space during the winter months, and I imagine that Ankern will stand up equally well come springtime.

By Marc Gilman

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