On 2011's Salon de Amateurs, Düsseldorf-based pianist/composer Hauschka exemplified the wildly diverse and rapidly evolving art form of 21st-century classical music with a collection of nominally house and techno pieces performed primarily on the prepared piano. On the album, Hauschka altered the traditional timbre of the instrument by manipulating its strings with foreign objects, employing such techniques as clamping them with binder clips, padding them with leather, or adorning them with ping pong balls. Tweaked in this fashion, the strings not only delivered the robust resonance of steel wires, but also produced muted percussive hits, tinny ringing, or any one of a variety of unusual tones. With this added versatility, Hauschka was able to travel down the same roads as The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble and the Moritz von Oswald Trio by releasing a vaguely techno/house album with a paucity of computer-generated noises. Now, on Salon des Amateurs Remix EPs 1 & 2, Hauschka continues to champion the post-modern, polystylist ideals of contemporary classical music by soliciting techno producers to inject his tunes with a dose of electronic manipulation.
The first contribution on Remix EP 1 is from tandem producers Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer, who take on the shimmering and intricate "Cube." The remix is even more subdued than the original, with piano parts buried behind a percussion track that sounds more like popping speakers than actual drums. The slowly developing tune introduces hi-hats near the three-minute mark, while ever-so-slight variations enter and recede across its eight minutes. It feels as if the original song is being played quietly behind the drums (albeit after a mild warping), and is reminiscent of the the gentle, background cacophony of an orchestra tuning to concert pitch. The EP's second entry comes courtesy of Kompakt co-owner Michael Mayer, who remixes "Radar" into a beautiful and understated gem that would feel perfectly at home on his own imprint. The song's aesthetic stays true to the minimal branches of techno and classical music, utilizing a growing melody that builds piece by piece until it fully blossoms well after the track's halfway point. Bits of plinking piano begin the proceedings, before being joined by a steady four-on-the-floor kick, a deep and hypnotic bassline, and intermingling ostinati provided by strings and piano. Of all the Salon des Amateurs remixes so far released, this take on "Radar" is certainly the most accessible, deftly striking the balance between experimentalism and sweet pop nectar.
The second EP makes a dramatic turn to churning, industrial techno with Steve Bicknell's remix of "Tanzbein." The cold, hard tune is acid-flavored and barely comparable to the original piece. Its greatest similarity to Hauschka's composition isn't in its melody or mood, but rather in its ferocious repetitions and subtle changes that beg for an attentive listen. Vainqueur's fluttering remix of "Ping" closes out Remix EP 2 with a wash of delayed synthesizers. The atmospheric dub-techno tune is a severe departure from the original song, which is largely jazzy and upbeat, and contains only passing reference to the flitting sounds that Vainqueur emphasizes. The remix's percussion is soft compared to the complex layers of synth sounds, which allows their elaborate rhythmic combinations to take center stage.
These two EPs precede a larger collection coming out this fall that will feature remixed versions of every song from Salon des Amateurs. If these four remixes are any indication, the complete collection is bound to be a cerebral journey that requires a close listen, rather than a run-of-the-mill remix release that banally rehashes the hooks from the original works. Remix EPs 1 & 2 aren't difficult music, per se, but could be a touch too esoteric for those patently uninterested in the depth that classical music and experimental techno have to offer. But for those willing to ponder, meditate, and let the music flow through them, rest assured that Salon des Amateurs Remix EPs 1 & 2 can offer great rewards.
Remix EP 1: 8/10
Remix EP 2: 7/10