For fans of so-called ‘shoegaze’ music, this album will need little introduction. Ulrich Schnauss has long been regarded as an artist of some repute, creating widescreen soundscapes that have placed him in great demand as a remixer as well as an artist in his own right. Mark Peters, on the other hand, has pedigree as a guitarist with the Engineers – and the two have previous, having collaborated on the band’s album In Praise Of More.
Underrated Silence focuses on the quieter end of the dynamics spectrum. It shows immediately how there can be great beauty in musical simplicity, even if the reality is that the components of this music can be quite complex. Rosen Im Asphalt, for instance, hovers on one pitch without too much appearing to happen other than some subtle adjustments of texture. In reality it’s actually beautifully micro-managed, with each of the guitar, keyboard and electronic components adding layers to the overall sound.
Gift Horse’s Mouth, the album’s penultimate track, has quite a bit more rhythmic impetus, and it works well, pushing forward more urgently, but generally this is an album that proceeds with little in the way of rhythmic intervention.
Yesterday Didn’t Exist is the musical equivalent of twinkling lights, the starry vision captured through the use of glockenspiels, while Amoxicillin does that shoegaze trick of operating at two speeds at once – fundamentally slow but with faster hi hat rushes giving the impression of floating off the edge of a cliff. At the heart of the record Ekaterina finds a pure intimacy, Schnauss and Peters alone with their thoughts.
The irony with a title like Underrated Silence is that this is an album that works incredibly well turned up loud. The sheer depth of the bass, the intricacy of the guitar work, the subtleties of the electronics and the slowly shifting harmonies – all are elements that can be appreciated in minute detail this way. Or you can simply turn off all your cares, dive in and float on some pretty gorgeous music. The choice is yours.