“Walden” is the debut album from Jochen Tiberius Koch under his own name. He previously released two eps under the Autumn of Pækward moniker with stylistic descriptions of Krautrock, Experimental and Rhythmless Black Metal. Named after and taking its theme from a seminal piece of writing, whose influence is still strong in current times through the minimalism and slow living movements, Koch has found a worthy home in Schole Records for this release.
“The album was produced with an inspiration from a book “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” written by an American author/philosopher Henry David Thoreau. “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” writes about Henry’s nearly two tears of experience living in a forest and compresses the time into a single calendar year. Henry portrays a nature he encountered very lively, and on the other hand he quotes about blistering criticism of a civilized society.
In his new release, some similarity in sounds from his previous releases can be heard, but more classical elements with an elegant sound of piano and strings affects the emotions in the calmness of the ambient electronica music background. Jochen interprets Henry’s philosophy and the joys of nature into music composition.”
“Solitude” opens the album with a track befitting it’s title and the theme of the album. Lush synth progressions fill the air with a sound equaling a church organ alongside rhythmic, but subtle beats and bass line that grounds the synth and focuses the piece. Strings resonate and cut across with an icy ambience powering over everything, before piano changes the tone and complexity of the track. The music moves in a speedy repetitive rhythmic pattern and draws the listener in. It’s almost as if the start of the track is the initial moving into nature, all alone and uncertain, while the second half alludes to finding oneself and the comfort of experiences in the new environment. The changing from Ambient through to Modern Classical with electronica touches is fluid and clean.
“The Bean – Field” stark piano with a swirling undercurrent of intoxicating ambience introduces the spoken word of actor, director and narrator Dieter Bellmann who’s rich voice reads poetry in German presumably derived from the chapter of the same name. The music remains in the background, but not ignorable. Largely modern classical in base it has flourishes of electronica elements in the way the instruments become muted and warp at the end of their notes. The music flows nicely with the music in a flowing forward/ retreating style. With the last two minutes if the track electronic elements come to the fore and the track elevates once more before returning to the opening motifs of ambience and piano.
“The Ponds” piano and horns welcome the listener to another vocal track, this time sung by Willy Son. Flickering electronics and piano arpeggios lead the track from its initial grand beginning to a more contemporary modern classical meets pop song sound. The use of multitracked vocals takes the track away from the genre restrictions normally placed on Modern Classical and Ambient music. This I have noticed through recent releases from the likes of Alaskan Tapes, adds a nice diversion for listeners, like myself, who normally don’t listen to music with vocals.
“Baker Farm” a fusion of modern classical strings with long form drones, piano, hand percussion and vocoder voice. Quite a contrast in sound with the sublime musical elements and the robotic alien like voice. Presumably the voice relates to the part in the book that Thoreau encounters impoverished people at Baker Farm, but as the metallic sound of the voice is hard to decipher. After a droning and slow piano section an explosion of sound occurs with a thick wall of Synths radiating out while the piano that was minimal before, has become more lyrical and string drones filter into the Synth explosions.
“Higher Laws” strings and teasing fractured sounding piano notes that are whipped away bring forth a stunning layered section of drones and swipes of strings that cut through the air in a stabbing motion. The texture of the piece changes as these strings become more frenzied in the playing while the drones underneath build. A bass rumble, cello, military percussion, bottle clangs leads the track into a section that feels cinematic, but ultimately a gateway to where the music is heading. As the piece builds up percussion that sounds like a combination of wood being bashed and tap dancing, it then leads into a section with distorted tremolo guitar that adds a completely different sound to any other track on the album, bringing it closer to the post rock genre than the Ambient/ Modern Classical/ Electronic genres that it mostly exists in for the entirety of the album.
“Brute Neighbours” static field recordings, banging cabin doors, drones, strings (I am torn between violin and cello here) and the whispered distant voice of Manfred Kroog create a track that gets its tone from the howling drones, that while not the predominant sound source, definitely, alongside the strings, it influences the mood of the piece. For brief moment the strings drop out leaving the drones and the looped field recordings before coming back with the loops being dropped and replaced by backwards snatches of chimes that are looped. The track ends with slow-paced strings and piano giving the track a very melancholic feel to it.
“Former Inhabitants; And Winter Visitors” what sounds like a small string and piano configuration produce, alongside Synth, a very joyous and light filled journey through a piece of music. The music has a motorik feel with short, sharp playing. The Synth is hypnotically repetitive while a cello drone gives low-end to the track. A burst of sound and splashes of military styled percussion raises the intensity of the music bringing it a grander scale and is a natural progression within the music.
“Winter Animals” glitchy beats, rimshot jazz like cymbal fills, piano and cello usher in an understated track full of moodiness with a laid back feel. The pace is slow with each note and beat given space to breathe. Unknown female vocals sung in english bring a melodic touch without being overstated. The vocals repeat the lines “Try to run away from you, but I’m caught out” which could reference Thoreau’s intention of escaping civilization.
“The Pond in Winter” straight away a dominant piano line starts off the track with a strident rhythm while delicate playing floats above it. A plucked string instrument that I can’t put my finger on cascades across with a feeling of offkilter rhythms. The pace speeds up bringing through an uplifting feel with it before turning into a looped ending. For a piece having relatively few elements, it is just quite simply a joy to listen to.
“Spring” a long vibrating drone test sounds like its being teased out is layered with a horn that sounds like it’s heralding the need day. Double bass, cello and operatic vocals singing in German from Fräulein Angel alongside what sounds like a toy piano or a finger instrument such as kalimba allow the music to balance between a darker feel and lighter elements. Towards the end a violin section is accompanied by a building noise which threatens to overpower the track before dissipating and leaving just the toy piano/kalimba and a slight slice of ambience to bring the track, and the album to completion.
This year Schole Records has released full length albums from flica, Tim Linghaus and Daisuke Miyatani as well as digital only singles/ep’s from K-Conjog and label boss Akira Kosemura. “Walden” shows no abating of their quality releases with a release that is quite simply a delight to listen to. The music is multifaceted and always engaging, which rewards with each listen. If Koch was not as well-known prior to this release, then this should get people talking. Totally Recommended. The album is due out on July 27 and can be pre-ordered here.