Cellist and composer Anne Müller is no stranger to Erased Tapes, and she’ll be making her debut on the label with ‘Heliopause’. Over the years, the Berlin-based musician has compiled an impressive list of collaborations and contributions, placing collaboration high up on levels of musical importance. These include working with Nils Frahm on ‘7fingers’, ‘All Melody’, and his soundtrack for the film ‘Victoria’, appearing on Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm’s ‘Collaborative Works’, and working with Lubomyr Melnyk on ‘Fallen Trees’. She’s featured on two albums with singer-songwriter Agnes Obel and worked with multi-instrumentalist Markus Sieber on his 2019 album, ‘Reminiscence’. Quite the CV! Along with violinist Alex Stolze and pianist Sebastian Reynolds, she also co-founded Solo Collective (listeners may remember ‘Solo Collective Part One’ back in 2017). Müller also provided two pieces for the label’s 5th and 10th anniversary box sets.
Coming from a classically trained background, Müller performed in a number of symphonies, but she soon switched things up to pursue new forms and alternative ideas within the somewhat rigid realm of classical instrumentation, widening possibilities and removing imposed restrictions that occupy orchestral settings. Her debut is a glorious example of what she’s capable of. Named after ‘the boundary where the sun’s wind ceases to have influence’ – the border of our solar system and the point at which it ends – ‘Heliopause’ is a distinctive and surprising debut. Her exquisite playing is able to shine, on its own, as it so deserves.
After a 42-year journey, the two NASA Voyagers recently crossed over the threshold of the Heliopause, entering interstellar space and losing both the influence and power of its mother sun. Müller was approaching her own Heliopause, too. After years of collaboration – something she places great importance upon – she felt it was the right time to step out and explore new possibilities, venturing into the unknown; saying goodbye, at least temporarily, to other artists and musicians she’d worked with before.
Heliopause marks the end of a long journey but also the start of voyages to explore strange new worlds
Experimental opener ‘Being Anne’ highlights her playful side, but it’s not indicative of the album as a whole. The strings of a broken down piano are plucked with a plectrum, and parts of the key mechanism are scratched to produce rhythm. Looped cello drones and drums help to give new life to something that was once in need of repair. Müller enters into the unknown with some degree of excitement – bold, not timid – and she uses the concept as a creative tool, not relegating it to a place of trepidation, but rather exploring it with brave steps that equate to original pieces of music.
The unaccompanied cello highlights the lonely nature of the Voyager, as well as going solo, but there’s something undeniably beautiful about this. Stripped back and nude, it reveals all of the cello, making it the prime instrument, and it also reveals a masterful patience, which has built up over the years. Its notes are a bare face without any makeup, revealing a pure, natural appearance…and one that’s all the more beautiful for its lack of artificiality.
Her own life experiences are imprinted upon ‘Heliopause’, making it a deeply personal record. ‘Nummer 2’ was the second piece that Anne ever wrote, while she also used the sounds of a tiny piano she got from her mother when she was a student. ‘It stood for years in our little summer garden house, where I practiced on it constantly for my piano lessons. Even though it’s old and not in the best shape, I love the way it sounds and call it my little circus piano’. Because of these inclusions, the record has a real, lasting substance, and she’s able to convey compassion and humanity within her music, which makes all the difference in the world; an undeniable weight and a sublime warmth fills the space around the cello, so that its lonesome voyage is not a cold or lonely one, although one is aware of it being alone. There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.
Baby stars take the shape of melodies, and the personal nature helps in comforting the music as it travels on its long journey, keeping her company like a photograph of a loved one. Love always offers more: a well-loved and older instrument resembles a sibling, a friend, a lover, its worn body and old tone more valuable than an expensive (but alien) new instrument and a pristine sound. Sentimental value produces a tone worth more than gold. She steps forward, breaking through into uncharted galaxies and writing unwritten star maps; letting her cello go. ‘Heliopause’ is out November 29 on Erased Tapes.