Peter Prautzsch. Schwere See. Palacmusic PM008. Artwork by Peter Prautzsch.

Release Info

‘Schwere See’ (Heavy Sea) is all about the sea – the second album release by Peter Prautzsch pays a mournful and triumphant tribute to the nineteenth and early twentieth century quests of oceanic and polar explorers. Its widescreen aural panorama slowly shifts from modern electronic drone to blurred melodies – a densely textured voyage build from field-recording compositions and acoustic studio recordings, equally drawing from neo-classical ambient music and mircosounds. ‘Schwere See’ is a collection of subtle movements in sound, long-stretched hymns and fragile intervals – a melancholic and cinematic scope to the monumental struggles of these early expeditions into the Arctic Ocean and the continent of Antarctica.

‘Schwere See’ has been recorded over the past two years in both Kiel and Berlin, Germany and Hvide Sande, Denmark. It’s the second album release by Peter Prautzsch following his 2007 debut ‘Vor der Stadt’. The new album features guest appearances by Sasu Ripatti (Vladislav Delay, Luomo, Moritz von Oswald Trio) on percussion, Marc Weiser (Rechenzentrum, Zeitkratzer) on drums, Masayoshi Fujita (El Fog) on vibraphone and Friso Van Daalen on guitar. The album is out now on Neo Ouija.

Album Preview Mix

Review by Textura Magazine

Recorded over two years in Kiel and Berlin, Germany and Hvide Sande, Denmark, Peter Prautzsch conceptually unifies his sophomore album effort Schwere See (Heavy Sea) by connecting its settings to the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century expeditions of oceanic and polar explorers. Water-based field recordings and radio transmissions lend further context to the project, whose eleven pieces range dramatically across a panorama of genres, including neo-classical, drones, ambient electronica, and collage, with much of the album cloaked in melancholy, even gloom.

Certainly the title of the brief overture “Beaufort” ties it to the album theme, as do the seagulls cawing alongside its foreboding drum pounds and swelling strings, which seem to swoop as dramatically as said birds. The album proper might be said to begin with “Skagerrak,” however, whose dense, nightmarish dronescaping is normalized by the hard-hitting punch of Marc Weiser’s (formerly of Rechenzentrum) drumming. With its tempo reduced to a crawl, the gloomy “Nebelbank” is almost anemic by comparison, though it does allow for the percussive contributions of Sasu Ripatti (Vladislav Delay, Luomo) to be all the more clearly heard. In this case, snare and tympani accents provide an ongoing commentary to a woozy flow concocted by Prautzsch that can’t help but suggest a ship’s rocking. Also evoking the to-and-fro movement of an immense ship, “Treibeis” emphasizes the classical side of the project, with shuddering strings, horns, and other orchestral instruments moving in varying degrees of slow-motion alongside field recordings of water and noise. While some pieces are turbulent, others are relatively peaceful, such as “Aurora Borealis” and “Windstille,” whose delicate piano playing is augmented by Masayoshi Fujita’s (El Fog) vibraphone shimmer.

There are moments that are almost Wagner-esque, so thick and dense is the horn-drenched sound Prautzsch generates, and much of the material unfolds at the same glacial pace at which the ships would have traveled in making their way through the Arctic Ocean and to the continent of Antarctica. The word cinematic gets thrown around fairly casually, but in this case the term applies: from beginning to end, Prautzsch’s pieces tie together cohesively and consistently in their reinforcement of his evocative project’s core concept.

Review by Nils Quak, Resonant Strata

Peter Prautzsch’s “Schwere See” is heavy stuff. To call this ambient, would neither do the album nor the genre any justice. With early expeditions into the Arctic Sea as a thematic backdrop, the eleven tracks explore dark and desolate territories. Thick brooding drones hover dangerously in the background with muffled field recordings making their appearance here and there.

The spectrum of sounds used in Schwere See is immense. Besides the aforementioned drones and field-recordings, Schwere See has a couple of tracks that are accompanied with drums and percussions, which works absolutely amazing, because they add a lot of theatrical impact on the already heavy and haunted sounds. At some points the heaviness gets lifted a bit making way for airy, foggy synth or e-piano patterns as in “Auf Grund”, which has a hazy dream-state ambience. The great thing about “Schwere See” is, that it doesn’t dwell on one established style, but changes it appearance quite a lot during the album. From really dark and bass laden drones, to cello-esque patterns and gong pulsations, the album has a lot to offer and digest.

The list of renowned artist with Sasu Ripatti (Vladislav Delay), Marc Weiser (Rechenzentrum) and Masayoshi Fujita (El Fog), who contributed to this album, is impressive and adds nice touches to the sound. Especially the Drums from Marc Weiser on “Skagerrak” with their massive side-chaining of the droning textures add an interesting dimension to the track, transporting it more into late 90s post rock regions, though with lesser complex drum patterns.

Too bad Neo Ouija has switched to digital only releases, because this would be amazing as a vinyl version. Anyways – there is a limited CD-R version available at Peter Prautzsch’s bandcamp page. You shouldn’t hesitate to get this one.

Review by Headphone Commute

Since its demise in 2005 and the subsequent return three years later (under a different management), Neo Ouija strived to secure the talent of its past roster and maintain its original mission. Unfortunately, the good old IDM masters of early 2000s, such as Deru, Kettel, Xela, and Apparat have all found a new home; the fifth installment of the Cottage Industries series appeared very promising, but emerging artists didn’t follow-up with full length albums on the label; and the ignited expectations slowly withered and cooled off. The opening paragraph of this review may sound a little negative and bleak, but its tone is designed to put your mind into a certain perspective, and prepare it for celebration of the amazing new release by Peter Prautzsch. So yes, needless to say, I was pretty blown away by the textures on Schwere See, and perhaps a bit unprepared to enter the world of experimental darkness composed in a foley room built for movies of my mind.

Recorded over two years in German cities of Kiel and Berlin, as well as Denmark’s Hvide Sande, the second full-length release by Peter Prautzsch features an appearance by Sasu Ripatti (aka Vladislav Delay and Luomo), Marcus Weiser (aka Rechenzentrum and Zeitkratzer) and Masayoshi Fujita (El Fog). The orchestral arrangement of the album reminds me of the best output by Murcof (speaking of which, whatever happened to Oceaania? – it’s been almost five years since the release of Cosmos!), the cinematic feeling of Jóhann Jóhannsson, the smoky tenderness of Deaf Center, and the beautiful child of Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto‘s wedlock. The music of Schwere See (tr. ‘heavy sea’) pays a tribute to the struggles of the early expeditions into the Arctic Ocean and Antarctica. These gloomy, cold, and desolate quests claimed many lives during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Prautzsch draws on the themes of these anguished and eventually triumphant journeys, to sculpt elaborate phonographic compositions that transport the listener into a landscape of drifting ice, stormy waters, and hovering fog.

Here is how the quest unfolds : something hollow drops into abyss among the screeching birds and shrieking strings… tension builds behind every corner of metallic rings and concrete echoes… the music carries forth, like an abandoned creaking ship with something breathing and alive in its voracious belly… radio transmissions are intercepted by the corroded wires and amplified through tarnished megaphones exposed to night and hail… the ship plows further on, with its sound slicing through icebergs, glacial fields, and floes… the piano drops its minor chord upon the moaning violins, as orchestral drums announce its inevitable fate…

Falling alongside “cinematic“, “hauntology”, and “doomdrone” mutators of ambient, modern classical, and experimental music, Schwere See immediately places itself among the contenders for best of the year selections, even if we’re only less than a quarter into this year. With mastering by the new Neo Ouija’s label owner, Martin Hirsch and cover art by Frederick Judd Waugh, the only thing that can top this release is a 75-run limited edition in a king size jewel case with color prints. After Schwere See I’m definitely going to check out Prautzsch’s earlier releases on his very own Palacmusic: Field (2007), Vor der Stadt (2007) and Ghosts (2008) — the latter recorded under his Palac moniker. Highly recommended!

Review by Richard Allen, A Closer Listen

Sometimes, just looking at a release, one knows. Schwere See is packaged in a slim, handsome DVD case, dark ocean waves inside and out, simple yet striking. The artist’s website displays a similar sense of style. Like us, Peter Prautzsch prefers the order of squares. His media design and concert credits are extensive, his photography exquisite. He may be young, but he has already compiled a lifetime of achievements. Add the preview videos (three of which can be seen below), and one can clearly see that this album has been built to succeed.

Schwere See is at least the third release in recent months to take as its starting point the oft-doomed expeditions of oceanic and polar explorers, following Richard Knox & Frédéric D. Oberland’s The Rustle of the Stars and Spheruleus’ Voyage. The subject matter is rife with inspiration: bravery, sacrifice, madness and occasionally triumph. These men sailed or marched into the great unknown, with unsteady compasses and suspect supplies, falling prey to the vicissitudes of weather and time. Their stories alternate between turmoil and calm, which Prautzsch honors here, frontloading the busier pieces and eventually drawing to an uneasy dock.

Guest stars sign on for parts of the voyage, entering and departing at different ports: Marc Weisner, Frisovan Daaien, Vladislav Delay and Masayoshi Fujita (El Fog). Their contributions provide unexpected angles to a timbre that is already in flux, as temperamental as the (literal) winds of fate on an Arctic plain. One moment, the sounds are spacious and deep, the next narrow and dense. The somber mood (schwere see means heavy sea) is clearly broken on at least one occasion, as an overwhelmed background narrator suddenly exclaims, “Holy crap!” The overall sense is one of foreboding: a vastness before and a vastness behind, effectively conveyed by impeccable mastering and a careful allotment of sound.

The deep bass of the opening “Beaufort” is set against the high-pitched squawking of seagulls and a massing squall of strings. Soon the water begins to lap and the drones begin to rise like flood levels on a sinking ship. Forget the triumphant launch – we’re already in danger. Radio signals and electronic patterns nudge their way into the sonic field like debris caught on radar. The center track, “Treibeis”, is the most intensely felt, with icicle crackles and dark chords enhanced by foghorn-like blasts and beelike buzzes, mutual nods to Ralph Vaughan Williams and Johann Johannsson. As expected, “James Caird” is a bit brighter, named after the boat that saved the surviving members of the Endurance after being aimed at a distant island with little chance of success. Holy crap, indeed. As the album draws to a close, the notes begin to separate like distant icebergs: sea birds are audible once more, and “Tromsø”s long winter has given way to shafts of light. The sea may be heavy and the voyage long, but Schwere See is well worth boarding.

Review by Oliver Perrott-Webb, Beard Rock

For an ambient album to grip me from first listen is a bad sign. A very bad sign. This normally means that I will get four or five listens out of it before the cracks show and it reveals its thinness, pretention and lack of vision. Depth requires time for the composer and the listener. So when I started “Schwere See”, you can understand why I was a little disappointed (?) to have enjoyed it so much on that first listen. Infectiousness is not welcome here. After I got past listen five though, I was astonished to find some crucial elements were missing. The cracks were not showing. The album felt as thin as the Mariana Trench. And, most crucially, I still loved it.

It all starts with one of the most finely crafted drum kicks you’re likely to hear this year. “Beaufort” is certainly an ominous signpost of things to come, directing you down a road of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ styled proportions lit only by the sonoluminescence of chorused organs and groans, creaks, crackles and what sounds like birdsong from a set of half mangled, haunted aviaries. I am sure that I would lose a few of you if I were to say that Prautzsch reminded me of Venetian Snares; I accept that, but hear me out. Much like our favourite bearded (bonus points) breakbeat aficionado, Peter Prautzsch’s command of his sonic landscape extends throughout the album with every second feeling like it’s been sat on for 20 minutes while it is expertly sculpted into the form you now hear. “Skagerrak” crosses into more familiar territory, utilising a repeating groove upon which to place his sonic explorations from orchestral crescendos to a menagerie of sounds underneath. Saying this, it still never escapes Prautzsch’s sometimes gentle, sometimes aggressive experimental grasp. The piano sounds on this release are a treat in themselves. They are certainly reminiscent of a Ben Frost release, occasionally chirping up like the only ray of sunshine left on earth.

“Auf Grund”, the highlight of the album, takes the crushing metal grinds and chirps of “Treibis” and the long, meandering organ passages of “Aurora Borealis”, makes a few tweaks and takes them out for a nice meal, maybe a film, and sets another date there and then; no “I’ll call you tomorrow” for Prautzsch. Once you’ve treated these sounds nicely, there is nothing you can’t do with them, and it turns out they might not be so monstrous after all.

You can definitely hear where the influences are coming from as well. As beautiful as “Auf Grund” is, you can find almost an identical pounding, stepped bass at the start of Alva Noto’s “garment (for a garment)”. To keep original for almost an hour is certainly no mean feat and in a world where the same chord patterns are repeated over and over in indie rock, drum and bass and every other genre under the sun, it would be extremely harsh to mark this release down based on a few similarities. If you’re going to pick some less original sounds, you should pick them well. And it is a really freakin’ cool sound.

There is a lot to commend this album for. Having heard this through a good few times, I am still finding new things to listen to, which is high praise indeed. I am not sure as to whether it reaches the dizzying heights of Tim Hecker’s “Ravedeath 1972”, Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Insen” or Ben Frost’s “Theory of Machines”, but it certainly comes damn close. It’s creeping up behind them with only dismembered organs to light its way. The others have had many more listens as well, so “Schwere See” still has time on its side. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Review by Tobias Fischer, Beat Magazine

Die See war schon immer eine passende Metapher in Sachen emotionaler Turbulenzen und stürmischer, unerwiderter Leidenschaften. Auf Peter Prautzsch’ zweitem Album hingegen sind die aquatischen Bezüge ganz woertlich gemeint: „Schwere See“ versteht sich als Hommage an die frühen Seefahrer, deren unerschrockene Fahrten ins Unbekannte die Erde erschlossen. Die Musik dazu lotet innerhalb eines Bandgefüges die Balance zwischen mechanisch-akustischen und elektronischen Klangquellen aus und kommt dabei immer wieder zu faszinierend ungewöhnlichen Gleichgewichten. Die historische Arbeit hat Prautzsch hoerbar emotional aufgewühlt – ein romantisches Album, dann doch.

Review by Rafa Villegas, Afterpop

El explorador noruego Roald Amundsen fue uno de los personajes centrales en la “era heróica de la exploración de la Antártida”. Si las disputas para coronar al “primero en llegar” al Polo Norte llegaron continuamente a callejones sin salida, la historia ha nombrado incuestionablemente a Amudsen como el primero en llegar al Polo Sur. Pero además, comandó también una de las primeras expediciones en aproximarse al Polo Norte. Su primera expedición importante tuvo lugar a finales del siglo XIX, y fue la primera en la historia en pasar el invierno en la Antártida. En esa ocasión, su barco quedó atorado en el hielo marino. Como era de esperarse, la tripulación pasó por momentos difíciles y de no haber sido por la preocupación del médico del barco por alimentarlos con carne de animales recién casados, quizás todos hubieran sido abatidos por el escorbuto. En 1903, tras pasar otro invierno atorado en el océano congelado -su tercero ya- Ronald se aproximó con éxito al Polo Norte.

Curiosamente, Amudsen alcanzó el Polo Sur después de que, desilusionado, se enteró de que el inglés Robert Falcon Scott se había adjudicado la primera llegada al Polo Norte, por lo que Amudsen canceló sus planes de explorar éste, y despistando a todos, Scott incluído, optó por alcanzar el Sur, objetivo que alcanzó al segundo intento Amudsen es uno de los nombres de una lista de personajes que entre los siglos XIX y XX agotaron el Mare Incognitum y la Terra Incognita, las aguas no exploradas y la tierra no pisada por el hombre. Inspirado por estas y otras expediciones marítimas y por la majestuosidad y el particular temperamento del océano, el artista multimedia y productor de música electrónica alemán Peter Prautzsch -también conocido como Palac y creador del netlabel Frozen Elephants- crea un álbum cuyo desarrollo le toma dos años y al cual nombra como Schwere See en alusión a un mar difícil, duro, incluso terrible.

Schwere See es un álbum cuyos componentes centrales son los drones, las texturas electrónicas, las grabaciones de campo y las percusiones acústicas. Todo esto empleado para crear una narrativa coherente y evocativa. Desde el inicio, con una breve obertura -”Beaufort”- en la que escuchamos los sonidos de las gaviotas, Prautzch nos sitúa en alta mar. ”Skagerrak”, el primer track en forma es toda una historia épica por sí mismo, una que parte de una calma aparente hacia la tensión y que bien podría haber musicalizado esos momentos difíciles que atravesó Amundsen navegando por el caprichoso estrecho de Skagerrak. “Wasser im Schiff”; el título lo explica -agua en el buque- transmite una sensación de urgencia. “Nebelbank” “banco de niebla”- es otro momento tenso que se vuelve particularmente interesante con Sasu Ripatti en una batería sincopada que dialoga con un piano ocasional y un oleaje electrónico.

Pero habrá también momentos de calma, como en “Aurora Borealis” o “Windstille” -alemán para “calma”- donde se crea un contraste interesante contraponiendo el vibráfono de Masayoshi Fujita y el piano frente a frías atmósferas y texturas electrónicas; y otros que transmiten esa sensación inexplicable de hacer frente a lo infinito, como en “James Caird”, un track que nos lleva a lo que Ernest Shackleton y los suyos debieron vivir cuando su barco fue vencido por los témpanos de hielo rumbo a la Antártida y los dieciséis tripulantes, después de flotar abrazando a los mismos témpanos, tuvieron que navegar por dieciséis días en un bote salvavidas abierto – el James Caird.

A través de Schwere See Peter Prautzsch logra entretejer victoriosamente complejos procesos de producción para crear la bitácora sonora de una travesía llena de momentos climáticos y episodios de una contemplación que se rinde ante el vasto mar.

Review by Daniel Barnaś, Nowamuzyka

Wszechocean potrafi być niewyczerpanym źródłem inspiracji. Peter Prautzsch obserwował ten żywioł przez mocno zadymiony bulaj – jego muzyka jest mroczna, często tonie w minorowych wirach. Zafascynowany rytmem fal oraz historią człowieka-marynarza nagrał album niełatwy w odbiorze. Tę muzykę jednak naprawdę warto zgłębić, gdyż jest to aktualnie jedna z ciekawszych, tegorocznych produkcji.

„Schwere See” najwygodniej określić jako elektroakustyczny ambient. Gdy album chyli się ku końcowi free-jazzowa nieprzewidywalność, brutalnie łamana faktura kompozycji oraz wszechogarniające uczucie klaustrofobii ustępują na rzecz gęstej sieci field recordingu i szacunku do ciszy. Jednak pietyzm, z jakim Prautzsch potrafi traktować pojedyńczą nutę, nie nudzi – fortepianowe melodie dryfując po chaotycznie niespokojnym tle okazują się równie zajmujące i ciekawe, co kontrabas cicho zawodzący wśród pulsacyjnych, elektronicznych drgań. Paleta brzmień oraz odcieni wykorzystana przez Prautzscha składa się na frapujący, wielowymiarowy obraz.

Trywialny wniosek, iż „Schwere See” ukazaje łagodną i drapieżną naturę oceanów powinien pójść w zapomnienie po pierwszym kontakcie z płytą – mistrzowsko poprowadzony przez kalejdoskop nastrojów „Skagerrak” nakreśla zarówno mistycyzm, potęgę, jak i niewypowiedzianą dramaturgię miejsca, jakiemu poświęcony jest utwór. Otwierający całość „Beaufort” można natomiast śmiało odczytać jako przestrogę przed, wydawałoby się, poskromionym i poznanym przez człowieka żywiołem. Bo przecież to nie my decydujemy, na którym stopniu tak naprawdę kończy się skala Beauforta. Fabularyzacja poszczególnych kompozycji, do której zachęcają tytuły utworów, jest z resztą tylko jednym ze sposobów eksploracji „Schwere See”.

Muzyka Prautzscha w jednej chwili potrafi przywołać na myśl błogobojny soundtrack Martineza do filmu „Drive”, by zaraz musnąć aurę przerdzewiałych, falloutowskich kompozycji Marka Morgana. Mimo tego „Schwere See” to przede wszystkim kolejny autorytarny, jasno świecący punkt na ambientowym firmamencie. Zainteresuje błyskotliwymi patentami brzmieniowymi oraz aurą miejsc, w które przenoszą słuchacza tytuły utworów – zamglona wioska rybacka, potężny sztorm, czy uśpiona, zlewająca się z horyzontem tafla oceanu. Świat, który, jak dobrze się zastanowić, bezpiecznie jest poznawać czytając „Moby Dicka” w domowych kapciach. Lub z prądami wyobraźni wraz z muzyką Prautzscha. Ambient morską pianą pisany.

Review by Omote

Ciò che si scorge oltre le onde così scure e minacciose è un tratto di costa del continente antartico, e per il resto del post immedesimiamoci in un marinaio/esploratore di fine ’800/inizio ’900 che dopo una lunga traversata tra banchi di nebbia, iceberg galleggianti su cui la propria nave ha più volte urtato, ed il pack in cui si è rimasti intrappolati magari per mesi, riesce finalmente a vedere un tratto di terra ferma su cui approdare…oltre a tutto ciò non è nemmeno da sottovalutare la temperatura media che oscilla tra i -22°C ed i -85°C.

Dati i mezzi dell’epoca e le scarse finalità scientifiche a cui si poteva ambire, l’unica motivazione che poteva spingere avventurieri ed esploratori a tali pericoli non era che la “gloria”, ed il “prestigio” (nonchè i riconoscimenti monetari da parte della propria nazione di appartenenza), oggi invece il fascino della zona più inospitale ed intatta del nostro pianeta è dovuto in gran parte alle immense risorse capitabilizzabili che custodisce sotto migliaia di metri di ghiacchio: petrolio, ferro, carbone, nichel e uranio.

Oltre a questo pattume per cui Cina/Russia/USA e svariate altre nazioni si stanno scannando da anni per averne la piena gestione, i ghiacci perenni custodiscono anche forme di vita sia vegetali che animali che procariote (batteri) e virus, che si sono sviluppati solo in questa zona del mondo…e sarebbe decisamente più affascinante scoprire come si siano evolute, quali siano i loro processi metabolici, nonchè capire dai carotaggi quali cambiamenti climatici l’Antartide ha subito nel corso di milioni di anni ed i conseguenti influssi sulle correnti oceaniche globali, piuttosto che cercare di capire a quale profondità sono i pozzi petroliferi od i giacimenti di uranio… (non nascondo la mia propensione alla Scienza piuttosto che all’Economia, ma sono punti di vista).

Comunque sia, l’album in questione non si concentra su questo aspetto, piuttosto, come da introduzione, sulle prime esplorazioni effettuate nel continente antartico…e siccome i riferimenti sono chiari, è bene prima riassumerne la storia.
Sebbene è facile associare la scoperta dell’Antartide alla Norvegia, per via del più celebre degli esploratori, ossia Amudsen e per via della porzione di terra confinante con l’Oceano Atlantico da lui nominata “Terra della Regina di Maud” in onore della monarca norvegese, la scoperta, intesa come primo avvistamento, da riportarsi al 1820 è avvenuta ad opera di una nave russa. Negli anni successivi più e più navi cercarono in qualche modo di costeggiarla e circumnavigarla, ma fu solo nel 1895 durante il Congresso Internazionale di Geografia tenutosi a Londra, che si decise di esplorare il continente.

La prima spedizione a finalità scientifiche, effettuata nel 1897, fu belga, ad opera di Adrien de Gerlache che salpò da Anversa con un team di zoologi, geologi, astronomi. Giunsero nella Terra Vittoria e diedero il nome allo Stretto di Gerlache…per poi rimanere bloccati nel pack per quasi un anno prima di essere soccorsi. Nel 1899 partì la prima spedizione inglese, la Southern Cross, attraccò a Cape Adare dove furono installate le prime costruzioni artificiali sul continente antartico…null’altro che due baracche prefabbricate in cui l’equipaggio trovò rifugio durante l’inverno…tra scorbuto, congelamenti e degenerazioni di tipo psichico anche in questo caso le vittime non mancarono.

Nel 1901 fu la volta della prima spedizione svedese, la Nordeskjold-Larsen che non ebbe fortuna, difatti la nave si distrusse tra i banchi di ghiaccio e l’equipaggio sopravvissuto rimase in attesa di soccorsi fino al 1903. Nello stesso anno salpò anche la prima nave tedesca, la Gauss che partì da Kiel, rimase incastrata trai ghiacci ma l’equipaggio riuscì a scoprire il monte nominato con molta fantasia “Gauss”; e sempre nel 1901 partì la Discovery dall’Inghilterra, spedizione che riuscì nell’impresa di installare la prima stazione meteorologica permanente su suolo antartico.

Negli anni successivi non si fermò l’ambizione di giungere sempre più all’interno dell’Antartide, nel 1907 Nimrod raggiunse il Polo Sud magnetico e fu solo nel 1910 che si disputò la sfida tra Amudsen e Ross alla conquista del Polo Sud…come noto l’esploratore norvegese ci arrivò per primo, mentre Ross perse quasi completamente il suo equipaggio. Per terminare, nel 1914 fu la volta della spedizione Endurance, guidata da Ernest Shackleton, partita con l’obiettivo di attraversare l’intero continente per poi essere recuperati dalla parte opposta dell’Antartide dalla nave Aurora. La Endurance si distrusse contro il pack e gran parte dell’equipaggio morì.

Ebbene, tutto ciò è stato riassunto da Peter Prautzsch in “Schwere See” (Heavy Sea), suo secondo album dopo il più pacato “Vor Der Stadt” uscito nel 2007, un omaggio alle missioni esplorative del 19^ secolo. Registrato nel corso di due anni tra Berlino, le coste danesi e Kiel (da dove partì la Gauss), “Schwere See” si sviluppa in 57 minuti (e non di facile ascolto), e si muove tra drone elettronici che orchestrali, ambient, neo-classica, e soprattutto utilizzando moltissimi field-recordings da lui registrati, che riprendono gli scricchiolii ed il fruscio del legno delle navi, il gracchiare dei gabbiani, le comunicazioni via radio e capaci di riprodurre un costante senso di acquaticità ed ondeggiamento.

Oltre alla componete elettronica si aggiungono anche un pianoforte, un vibrafono, un accompagnamento d’archi tanto aggraziato da dare l’effetto del vento gelido che soffia tra le onde, quanto maestoso in un crescendo d’intensità che ricorda a tratti il recente lavoro di Ben Frost con il compositore islandese Daniel Bjarnason nella rivisitazione della soundtrack di “Solaris” (l’originale di Tarkovskij eh!), ed ancora tamburi e percussioni ad enfatizzare il senso di drammaticità.

11 tracce che riprendono sia la solennità e la maestosità delle intenzioni che portarono alla conquista dell’Antartide, che la tristezza e la rassegnazione che segnarono invece l’esito infausto di molte delle esplorazioni sopra riassunte. Brani più drammatici come “Wasser in Schiff” (acqua a bordo), “Nebelbank” (banco di nebbia), “Beaufont” (nave con cui partì Ross) ed il brano che ricorda molto Ben Frost “Skagerrak” (tratto di mare che separa la Norvegia dalla Danimarca e da cui partirono svariate missioni), si alternano a momenti invece più sereni ed eterei che sembrano intenzionati a dare un’immagine quasi visiva di un ambiente tanto estremo quanto affascinante, tra questi, il senso di spazio e vuoto in “Aurora Borealis”, l’effetto di riverbero della luce che si riflette sul ghiaccio in “Auf-Grund” (sulla terra), “Windstille”, “Tromsø” (da cui partì Amudsen) e “James Caird” (nave che salvò i superstiti della Endurance).

Sarebbe perfetto per sonorizzare un documentario…sotto un piccolo estratto, ma si tratta di un lavoro che per quanto lungo e faticoso (un po’ come essere arrivati a leggere fin qui questo lunghissimo post…), andrebbe ascoltato nel suo insieme.

Review by François Bousquet,

Jusqu’à présent inconnu de ces pages, Peter Prautzsch n’avait, il est vrai, que publié des sorties confidentielles sous son nom propre (CDr, EP en mp3 sur son propre site). Repéré par Neo Ouija (pour qui il offrit un titre sur une compilation sous l’alias Palac), c’est en collaboration avec le label anglais qu’il propose son second album pour lequel il a également convié quelques invités pour le coup déjà référencés ici : Marcus Weiser (de Rechenzentrum), Vladislav Delay ou Masayoshi Fujita (El Fog).

Alors que le visuel de la pochette (entre chaîne de montagnes enneigées et vagues sombres tout juste surmontées d’écume, surplombées d’un ciel aux nuages foncés) et le premier morceau du disque laissaient imaginer une ambient opaque et tourmentée, l’arrivée de la batterie de Weiser et de la guitare d’un autre comparse (Friso Van Daalen) sur Skagerrak entraînent la musique de Prautzsch vers quelque chose de plus post-rock, mais en conservant néanmoins cette forme de noirceur. Même sentiment quand les percussions de Delay interviennent dans Nebelbank : principalement axé sur ses toms, le Finlandais en rajoute ainsi dans l’aspect anxiogène développé par ailleurs par Peter Prautzsch dans ses composantes électroniques.

Ceci dit, ce dernier n’a pas forcément besoin de ses apports extérieurs pour livrer des titres intéressants, à l’image de Treibeis et James Caird dans lesquels il se retrouve tout seul mais qu’il parvient à suffisamment habiller pour travailleur sur l’aspect évocateur tout en gardant la dimension sombre et torturée évoquée précédemment (bruits métalliques, souffles). Afin de ne pas se faire enfermer dans cette caractéristique, des pièces plus lumineuses apparaissent aussi sur Schwere See, par la grâce d’une mélodie plus claire (Auf Grund) ou du vibraphone de Fujita (Windstille). En revanche, les quelques morceaux plus courts (autour des deux minutes) qu’on rencontre à intervalles réguliers sur l’album font davantage office de remplissage un peu neutre qu’autre chose. Heureusement, ces titres restent minoritaires au regard d’un album plutôt convaincant dans l’ensemble.

Review by Guillermo Escudero,

Peter Prautzsch es un artista audiovisual y diseñador gráfico residente en Berlín, quien desde 2007 ha editado 3 EP’s en su propio sello PalacMusic ['Vor der Stadt' (2007); 'Field' (2007) y 'Clairvaux EP (2008)] y en esta oportunidad el sello alemán Neo Ouija publica su álbum debut. En éste colaboran Sasu Ripatti [Vladislav Delay, Luomo, Moritz von Oswald Trio] on percussion, Marc Weiser [Rechenzentrum, Zeitkratzer] on drums and Masayoshi Fujita [El Fog] en vibraphone y and Friso Van Daalen en guitarra. Por su parte Prautzsch trabaja en este disco grabaciones de campo, electrónica y grabaciones de instrumentos acústicos.

‘Schwere See’ [mar pesado] fue grabado durante dos años en las ciudades alemanas de Kiel y Berlín, así como en Sande Vides, Dinamarca y se relaciona con el mar; las largas misiones de finales del Siglo IXX y principios del XX y los exploradores que llegaron por primera vez a los polos Ártico y Antártico. La música es una banda sonora que recrea estas a veces imposibles expediciones que sucumben a la fuerza del mar. ‘Skagerrak’ nos muestra una vertiente distinta a lo electrónico con la improvisación de Marc Weiser en batería junto a las expansivas guitarras de Friso Van Daalen.

Las sesiones de vientos en varios de los temas producen un efecto cinemático de calma en ‘Aurora Borealis’ y ‘Nebelbank’, en el que Sasu Ripatti despliega una batería sincopada y de inquietud como ‘James Caird’. Con la vista puesta en el horizonte infinito, en espera que el mar se tranquilice, en ‘Windstille’ los tonos brillantes del vibráfono a cargo de Masayoshi Fujita se sumergen junto a bellas notas de piano y una capa ambiental. ‘Tromsø’ que cierra este disco, muestra una bella pieza melódica cuyos arreglos acústicos como el acordeón y el órgano le dan un carácter íntimo y melancólico.