Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee Volker Bertelmann (a.k.a. Hauschka) will soon release his eighth studio album, titled What If.
According to City Slang, the label, the sound is "unmistakably him," but it is also a "more immediate and full-bodied" album than its predecessors, going on to describe it as his most "wild" release to date. “I definitely decided with What If to make a record that might be my most radical. The lyrical piano has disappeared, and the sounds I’m fascinated by—like noise and electronic elements—have taken over” says Bertelmann.
For production, Bertelmann used an old Roland Jupiter 4 synthesizer and an Eventide H3000 Harmonizer, as well as engaging with his trademark technique of utilizing unusual objects to treat (or "prepare") the piano. But most notably—in a break from his traditional methodology— he also programmed parts for self-playing "player pianos" (also known as pianolas), exploiting the speed at which they could play, manipulating the resulting sounds, and building layers to emphasize a composition’s meter.
Not for the first time, Bertelmann also decided to construct his new record around a conceptual framework. But while, for example, 2011’s Salon Des Amateurs employed the prepared piano’s percussive qualities to explore his love of house and techno, What If aims to provoke reflection beyond the musical sphere with the titles of the both the album and its individual tracks.
“I had the idea of doing an album that is, in a way, a statement about the world in which we’re living and in which I see my kids growing up,” Bertelmann elaborates. “What If deals with utopian concepts, and speculates about the world in thirty years’ time. The more I feel questions being raised, the more I try to understand how activity is needed to make the drastic changes required, and there are still people out there who deny that global warming or other similar circumstances exist. Even scientists can’t convince them anymore, so I wanted to dedicate this to such thoughts. The record is there to create awareness for certain topics, but I didn’t want to make it too heavy. It’s more like a very playful way of dealing with our perspectives.”
What If represents the first time that Bertelmann has worked with anyone else on one of his solo albums. “Half of the record was recorded with Francesco Donadello, who also mixed the entire album at his Vox-Ton Studio in Berlin,” Bertelmann says, “where our basis was first-take recordings of my improvisations before I then did overdubs. The second half was recorded in my studio with a Yamaha Disklavier (a contemporary player piano that can record performances to a MIDI file), where I captured layers of programmed pianos and worked with my hands like a filter for the sound.”
01. I Can’t Find Water
02. Constant Growth Fails
03. My Kids Live On Mars
04. I Need Exile
05. I Can’t Express My Deep Love
06. Nature Fights Back
07. Familiar Things Disappear
08. Trees Only Exist in Books
09. We Live a Thousand Years
What If is scheduled for March 31 release.