The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Läuten der Seele
Ertrunken im seichtesten Gewässer Daniel Hignell , July 24th, 2023 07:15

The third album from Christian Schoppik presents a fragile, gossamer beauty for Daniel Hignell

Ertrunken im seichtesten Gewässer is an impressively opaque proposition: an album of hazy, fizzing woodwinds and thunderous creaks roaming across a claustrophobic, diffused terrain, a world of one-note melodies and softly dissipating loops. Läuten der Seele trades in a sea of tentative fragments – a ghostly choir taunting the distance, or a gentle warble creeping from the embouchure of some long-buried instrument – repetitive cells that nonetheless mutate and grow as time passes. It’s glacial, cautious stuff, as if the composer is recalling a summer from their childhood and scared they might misrepresent some crucial aspect of their youth.

Perhaps a sign of its evident craftsmanship, the referents the album grasps at, though so easily recognisable at first, seem to unravel as they approach. Sure, there are the lo-fi, cyclical motifs of a Boards of Canada album, but it sounds nothing like Boards of Canada. And there, too, the disintegrating post-classical entropy of William Basinski or The Caretaker. But as soon as such touchstones arise they feel inconsequential, significant on the surface alone. 

Split into two halves, Ertrunken im seichtesten Gewässer offers two distinct modes of composition. The first track, ‘Knochen, Mond, Buchstabe & Tropfen’, loiters in an ambient dirge, as if run through an ancient mixing desk that’s been left submerged in a bucket. Faint hollers and obtuse kalimbas obfuscate the trill of a clarinet, a deep and unsettling wind blowing coarsely through whatever imaginary space separates them. 

In contrast, ‘Molch, Pfütze, Schilf & Stein’ borrows more obviously from the musique concrète tradition. Here the core elements – long cluster drones and shapeless melodies – waver and stutter, until you can almost visualise the composer painstakingly manipulating disintegrating reels of archaic tape. A focus on various amalgamations of vocal recordings imbues the otherwise abstract proceedings with a surprising sense of direction, as does the composers’ playful approach to density. Sounds overlap and blend together in an inhospitable fog, only to slowly fold in on themselves minutes later. What had once been an amorphous din falls back to a single fragile tone or lonely vocal melody. 

Where their contemporaries might haphazardly layer contrasting sounds in pursuit of some clangorous swamp, here Läuten der Seele focuses on the smaller details that emerge from the collage process. Ertrunken im seichtesten Gewässer is an album of abstractions, analogies, and metaphors: a summer breeze, a tired memory, the swell of a distant wave. A cairn constructed of rocks so ethereal as to be shorn of any decipherable character, the resulting structure is something utterly beguiling – a shifting cloud of odd parts and poorly recorded epithets, as fragile as memory itself.