Retrospective: Christian Löffler’s ‘Mare’ (Oct. 2016)

Flawlessly combining the beautifully organic with the synthetic sounds of Berghain has always been Christian Löffler’s claim to fame. Graduating in the mid-2000s with a degree in the Visual Arts from the University of Greifswald, Löffler unexpectedly found himself at the center of a group of techno artists simultaneously taking inspiration from Arvo Pärt’s concept of “tinntinnabuli” and navel-gazing microhouse. Löffler began steadily issuing singles in 2008 and co-founded Ki Records with Paul Kadow the following year. Since then, Christian released his debut A Forest in 2012, garnering critical acclaim from websites like Resident Advisor, Clash Music, and Exclaim. His ability to create techno that sounds a world removed from the club stands as a testament to not only his mastery of mood and aesthetic, but to his mastery of musical intimacy. While some might call his music “flimsy”, his sophomore album Mare shows that emotion still runs deep in a genre long pegged as rough and tough.

Leading up to the album, Löffler decamped to the Darss Peninsula, located in the southern Baltic Sea region, where he stayed in a cabin that he mic’ed from the floorboards to the ceiling. His objective? To channel the natural surroundings of his temporary home toward an even more organic pop sound than his previous album. Running beyond a hour, Mare features the voices of Mohna (from the electronic duo Me Succeeds) and, for the first time on record, Löffler himself.

Within Mare, one can hear every single creak of the floor and clink of the windowpanes. Each click of percussion, save for the four-on-the-floor kick drum that rears it’s head every now and then, is carefully placed but not quite quantized to perfection. Soft pads pervade the majority of the album–the aural equivalent to light-play in photography. I can almost hear each beam of light flowing through his cabin’s windows, the waves washing over the sand between the house and the sea. It’s for these reasons that one could say his sound doesn’t hold up, but to deny the simple, intimate sound is to forget the emotional core of a record this magnificent. While the album does seem to drag at a few places, the variance on a theme brings respite by showing us different shades of his music.

About 20 minutes into the album, we’re treated to “Youth”, a beautiful, Satie-like piece that brings down Mare’s first section’s steady pulse-and-throb to a sylvan click. Right after that, we move straight into “Lid”, featuring the man himself; it’s here that his ability to craft pure pop is fully realized. Completing a triad of near-perfect songs is the title track (“Mare” with Mohna), showcasing Löffler’s flawlessly melodic compositional skills. On her part, Mohna succeeds on multiple levels at laying an unorthodox melody over a tectonically shifting beat. Towards the end of the album, we’re treated to one of the finest songs of this year: “Wilderness”. For my money, I’d say it’s the best thing I’ve heard since January. Give the album a listen once through and let it take you on the journey–it’s unforgettable. Sounding like the aftermath of some traumatic event, Mare is the healing eye of the storm in the progression of time.

RIYL: Pantha du Prince, Arvo Pärt, Erik Satie, Kim Hiorthøy, Lawrence

 

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