A blue-skied vista stretches its arms out before the listener – there’s a great view from up here. The electronics don’t protrude. Instead, they cling to and then segue into their smooth surroundings, a natural, ageless topography overlooking the sea, until rolling rhythms bleed into rugged rock. On ‘Mare’, Christian Löffler tucked himself away in his log cabin, which lies on the Darss peninsular and overlooks the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. Löffler’s music is able to be both intimate and introspective, but it’s also incredibly open and inviting towards its native environment.
‘Mare’ is his second studio album and continues on from 2011’s ‘A Forest’. This time around, though, nearly every sound has been self-recorded. Field recordings were taken from nearby surroundings, sheltered in the sunlit groves of birch and willow trees, littering the undergrowth of the music’s foliage. Microphones were dotted around the room, adding improvised, natural sounds to the whole experience. With no distractions, and living in a minimal, almost absent-without-leaving way, Löffler was able to really concentrate, pouring all of his energy into his music. And when that happens, it pretty much always works out well.
The sleek and slim electronic textures are undressed and sensitive to the touch; the music’s far from empty. Inside the music, everything’s smooth and well-furnished. The progressions glow in a black light cast by a selection of deep house hues, house being the kind of music that comes into its own when the night settles. The music’s working away with an enviable ease; like a silver Mercedes-Benz, power and elegant beauty are combined to form a well-oiled, purring beast. It has the capability for even more, but the rhythms keep their softer, comfy layers on in order to retain some warmth and, as a result, their emotive power. The music has a sensitive understanding, too.
Inside the music, you’ll find a mandolin, marimba, zither, and a self-modified synthesizer, but the instruments don’t tell the full story. There’s a playful approach too. A jangling set of keys, a barely-there clinking of an empty glass bottle, some light, spontaneous tapping and the faintly perceptible sound of footsteps level up the music with a striking authenticity and an improvised feel to what would otherwise be an urban set of concrete beat-blocks. Other improvised percussive ideas are added along the way. The vocals of past collaborator Mohna glide on a current of cooler air; her silky sighs and lowered words are slightly dampened by a number of crushed promises and a dank melancholia washes over the track like a sudden downpour of cold rain. Emotional loss can result in a gain of knowledge, of finding out more about yourself and leading to other chances in the process. Löffler himself sings for the first time, too. Not only does this add some masculinity with its tonal contrast, but the soulful singing increases the emotional depth of the track, too.
Drum machines drive the music on, but there’s still plenty of time to pause, look up, and enjoy the view. The sea stretches out before the music, the differing instrumental textures lapping against its shores like the breaking of vanilla, foamy waves. The production is excellent, too; it’s gestated and grown strong, with sturdy roots to rival those of the birch trees standing beside the studio, shaking their arms and waving greetings through the window, occasionally obscuring the music and the creative process with a gnarled melody and a shaded corner of the glass as they look in from the outside. Slinky beats and slightly introverted harmonies are a constant throughout. ‘Nil’ and ‘Swim’, sitting in the lower spine of the record, have more of an effect with this kind of approach. The album’s a monster in size at seventeen tracks long, and with a view as impressive as this, it never outstays its welcome. On ‘Mare’, there’s never a dull moment in sight.