I’ve been a fan of Ulrich Schnauss’ work since his first album, Far Away Trains Passing By, all the way back in the early 2000s (although I suspect I was actually a couple of years late to it. It’s hard to tell now). And his music’s great. Gently pulsing electronic soundscapes that build and evolve. I’ve seen it sometimes labelled as ambient, but to my mind its way too busy for that. Whatever you want to call it, it’s great. I’ve not kept up with every one of his releases – he’s pretty prolific – but everything I’ve heard, I’ve enjoyed.
Last year I saw him live at Headrow House, and it was great: a dark, intimate gig in their low-ceilinged music room, the rich electronic soundscapes filled the room and Nat Urazmetova’s visuals dazzled. This time, on the much bigger stage of the Belgrave, they seem a little dwarfed by the scale of it all. The room’s hardly full, and perched up on the stage they seem very distant. The music’s great. But it all lacks a bit of impact.
It’s a recurring problem of electronic music – you can never really tell how much of it is live. As Schnauss, with his back to the audience, hammers at his keyboard and occasionally tweaks a dial on his kit, who knows how much of it is prerecorded? It’s a show, but there’s not a lot of show going on. Urazmetova’s visuals are… fine. They’re glitchy and bright, but I’d be hard pushed to call them memorable.
I’m damning this with faint praise, and perhaps that’s a little unfair: the music’s great, the Belgrave serves good beer, we had a lovely evening. I just wanted it to be even better.