Nick Bollinger discusses the solo debut of Berlin percussionist and electronicist Daniel Brandt
When someone plucks the string of a guitar or blows into the mouthpiece of a horn, the sound that comes out will be unique, mediated by the pressure of the individual’s hands or the speed of their breath. But when one person flicks the switch on a drum machine or a synthesiser, the sound will be just the same as if anyone else had done it. Or so you might expect. Actually, electronics can reflect an individual’s touch as well, and here’s an album that proves it.
Daniel Brandt is a Berlin-based musician whose solo debut is the most physical, most tactile electronica I’ve heard in a long time.
Like most electronicists, Brandt makes his music from sampled sounds. The original source might be anything from an electric guitar to a washing machine, and you’ll hear examples of both on this album. By looping, mixing and manipulating those sounds he builds his compositions. And yet unlike so much electronic music, the impression is of someone doing stuff in real time, hitting or caressing things, and working up a sweat in the process.
Brandt was originally a drummer, in the trio Brandt Bauer Frick, and drums of one sort or another are at the core of his solo music too. Early in the making of this album, he had the notion of using nothing but cymbals, though that dogma was quickly abandoned. Still, it often sounds as though he’s using purpose-made percussion instruments.
But in a sense, everything in Brandt’s hands becomes percussion, whether it’s a drum, a piano or the punkishly raw guitar plucking that runs through the opening track.
But if this is music that puts rhythm first, there is also harmonic action. Sometimes it’s as little as Brandt hammering a simple series of ascending piano chords. At other times he’ll surprise with moments of near-classical majesty, like the gorgeous fanfare of trombones that emerges from the pure electronica of ‘FSG’.
Brandt’s music isn’t made for quiet meditation, nor does it have the dancefloor regularity of club music. It’s physical and emotional. Sounds heat and combust, or sizzle like water in oil. The sounds don’t feel as though they were unpacked from a box or arrived at too easily. Rather they seem to be the product of a struggle. And though the occasional horns are the only the instruments he doesn’t play himself, the feeling is of something organic and handmade. There’s a person here, alive, and making music.
Eternal Something is available on Erased Tapes