Though relatively new as a producer, Recondite (a.k.a. Lorenz Brunner) quickly began turning the heads of minimalist dance-music fans once his first singles began to appear in 2011. Last year's On Acid was especially notable, a reimagination of acid house that sounded little like anything usually associated with that genre. (Recondite's use of 303 was particularly unconventional.) Now, the German artist has found a new home at Ghostly, and made a record that is even more spare and subtle. Hinterland offers 11 cuts of minimal techno inspired by the landscapes of Lower Germany, where Brunner grew up. Over the LP's runtime, Recondite rarely varies from his bare-bones palette as he patiently works his way through ambient, techno, and house variations. Still, the record manages to come across as a remarkably patient, mature, and, at times, emotionally stirring body of work.
Brunner has stated that he wanted to capture the natural world surrounding his hometown of Rottal-Inn in Southern Germany. To do this, he took field recordings of the area, which made their way onto the album in various forms. Listening to the record, one often feels the calming sensation of walking through a country landscape or meandering along a misty mountain path. There's an organic feel to the LP, and Brunner's frequent use of woodblocks adds to that. Hinterland begins with "Leafs," a low-key affair with clickity-clack percussion and subtle synth work that builds into a quiet head-nodder. "Still" is a scratchy, downtempo number whose icy air is evocative of a wintry forest. Later on, "Abscondence" is a skittering, danceable track whose scratchy snares and plinky synths could turn into a compelling club cut, but on headphones, the song feels claustrophobic, even bleak.
Though Recondite explores various styles throughout the record, Hinterland owes a lot to the Berlin techno of the last decade. The icy rhythms and synths are similar to elements commonly employed by people like Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann, though there's a human quality to Hinterland that those artists rarely indulge. Recondite also seems unconcerned with the slow, endless builds one might hear in a large club. A definite parallel could be drawn to Pantha du Prince's masterful Black Noise, which was also an attempt by the artist to capture the natural world. (In Pantha du Prince's case, it was the Swiss Alps.) Though Brunner's use of samples is more spare than Pantha du Prince's, the artists share an attention to detail and willingness to push at their self-imposed boundaries to portray their respective worlds.
Though the album's vaguely dance-oriented tracks dominate Hinterland, Recondite's more atmospheric productions are similarly good. "Fey" shuffles along like a Boards of Canada track circa 2002, with lonely keyboards and echoing drum-pad snaps. It's a gorgeous, vaguely unnerving work that's as beautiful as it is creepy. "The Fade" is a clockwork-like piece of house music that's over before it has much place to go, while bonus track "Grove" is a lush, evocative number best heard on a really great pair of headphones. It's a particularly pleasant and simple way to wrap up the LP, which already has a lot of pretty moments. Hinterland is a captivating, impressionistic work from an exciting young artist; full of subtle tonal shifts, it's the sort of effort that will likely grow over time. The more plays it receives, the more rewards the slight variances offer.