Imagine the loneliest place of despair, on the edge of lost hope. Now imagine yourself actually wanting to be there. The enchantment of unknown discovery and isolation sums up what Abandoned City conjures up; mystery, rage, forgotten, and most notably darkness. In comparison to Hauschka’s previous works, Abandoned City is perhaps his most uptempo. There is a palpable aggression and urgency to every piece at a fast-paced energy level unlike the more passive, gentle sound fans of Hauschka have come to expect.
But despite this newfound electricity injected into every track, the sense of isolation and abandonment is not lost. A thick feeling of “you’re on your own” and the frantic pace at which Hauschka performs is near dizzying that there is no time to really stop and find anything. It’s literally a nonstop keep moving style that extends Hauschka to his most dire levels of darkness.
Abandoned City is gothic in its infrastructure, with its borderline electric sound. Opening with the thunderous track “Elizabeth Bay,” its easy to feel this is as close to a dance record that any of the post-classical/neo-instrumental composers will ever come to. A mean-mugging creation, Hauschka literally batters the piano to a pulp with every hard-toned push. Sexy and vile all in one but a delectable track that a fan of any synth-goth or brooding sounds will come to appreciate. Hauschka brings it down a notch on the following “Priypat” – an ode to the abandoned industrial city of the Chernobyl accident. The pacing remains quick and effortless, but on a more lighthearted approach with Hauschka opting for more quick taps and rapid string pulls. Leaving no rest for the weary, Hauschka resumes back to the intensity of the opening piece with “Thames Town,” a pure racing piece straight out of a Hans Zimmer score. Terse and to the point, “Thames Town” is a marvel given how much noise can be crammed in such a short period yet with such synchronicity.
“Who Lived Here?,” the record’s most atmospheric and memorable track, is an echoing movement of resentment and yet somehow hopeless content? The perplexity of the piece is representative of Abandoned City as a whole. So many layers of complexity but everything warped in such a blitzkrieg style, hitting the drums all at once for no chance of comprehension. While Hauschka is just one performer, just one piano – his use of the prepared piano gives him a so much more grandeur, echoing effect and sounding larger than large grouped ensembles. “Who Lived Here?” is the downer “emo” moment of the record (in a good way) – dark and unforgiving, a passive-aggressive break from the majority of the record’s pacing and the most thought-provoking. For those who think Abandoned City is simply just button-mashing, the depth of the record’s first five tracks, notably “Who Lived Here?” will show them how intellectually difficult such pieces are to craft let alone how demanding they are to perform.
Hauschka’s twisted piano sound thankfully stays in tact – the creakiness , the fussing of his prepared performance is heard on the more poignant tracks as “Craco,” “Sanzhi Pod City” and the absolutely emotionally-drenching of a closure “Stromness” It’s on these pieces that there remains glimpses of time for reflection but the mild range of despair linger.
Abandoned City won’t win any points with classical or ambient fans. It’s far too extreme and leaning far toward the techno side of instrumental music. The one man show however will win everyone else. It’s different and complex in every sense of the word but it delectably fun and sheer awe-inspiring given how much thought and precision was required out of Hauschka to miraculously coordinate such sounds. The tenseness of the record is so thick that with the exception of the few mildly-paced tracks “Who Lived Here?” and “Stromness,” you’re almost teetering on the edge of a panic attack. Overall, Abandoned City is incredibly engaging with so many varying angles in sound perception. It’s borderline synth dance, borderline acoustic techno, borderline deconstructed minimalist. Almost undefinable to a point, but one thing is certain about Abandoned City; it’s one hell of a thrill.
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