We were first attracted to this project by the unusual preview tracks: one pairing organ and brass, the other reminiscent of the Viennese children’s song “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.” The latter track, “I walked through a grassy green forest,” is packed with field recordings beamed from a prior century. With track titles such as “Kläranlagengesang 1 and 2” (“Sewage Treatment Plant 1 and 2”) the sonic legacy grows even stranger. Part one is as dark as a dirge, part 2 wobbly and scratched. As it turns out, Christian Schoppik (Läuten der Seele, or Ringing of the Soul) is sampling Heimatfilmes from the 1950s, then adding his own instruments for a nostalgic, yet disorienting experience. Hundreds of clips exist online, but here’s a brief excerpt for context:
The tone is romantic, simplistic and idealistic, a starting point for Schoppik to engage in a process of reevaluation. It’s easy to make fun of such sanitized scenes, yet Läuten der Seele can’t help but embrace them as well. For every turn to the dark side, there’s a commensurate turn to the light. Even dark titles (“Millionen Nachtigallen schlagen,” or “Kill millions of nightingales”) sound like the opening of curtains before the big show.
The artist relaxes a bit in “Irres Flackern vor den Altglascontainern” (if Google is accurate, “Crazy flickering in front of the waste glass containers”), at seven minutes the album’s longest piece. The samples are less pronounced as the loops build from an ambient beginning to a wall of drone. In the following piece, the extension of the drone deepens the reflective tone, while birds and brass promote lofty ideals. How much of the Heimatfilme era was wishful thinking? Was any of it real? The album offers two diametrically opposed conclusions, borne by the closing titles, translated as “Infinite consolation” and “Thoughts of mosquito larvae in the rain barrel at full moon.” The first is as cheerful as a Bavarian dance, while the second travels between tones, ending with choir and bells. Our conclusion: the soul still rings. Perhaps we don’t have to give up on that idealism quite yet. (Richard Allen)