Encompassing haunting melodies, mysterious sounds, pristine ambience, minimalism, frenetic buzz, vintage sci-fi echo, complex patterns and at times powerful propulsive rhythms ‘What If’ crowns an extraordinary couple of years for Volker Bertelmann aka Hauschka. In fact, it represents the culmination of everything he’s worked towards these past dozen or so years. “I was always attracted by hip hop, deep rhythms and weird sci-fi electronica. ‘What If’ is a result of both that and the hundreds of concerts I’ve played, where I developed a way of mixing all these elements together”, he explains.
Not for the first time, Bertelmann decided to construct his new record around a conceptual framework. But while, for example, 2011’s ‘Salon Des Amateurs’ employed the prepared piano’s percussive qualities to explore his love of house and techno, ‘What If’ aims to provoke reflection beyond the musical sphere with the titles of the both the album and its individual tracks. “I had the idea of doing an album that is, in a way, a statement about the world in which we’re living and in which I see my kids growing up,” Bertelmann elaborates. “’What If’ deals with utopian concepts, and speculates about the world in thirty years’ time. The more I feel questions being raised, the more I try to understand how activity is needed to make the drastic changes required, and there are still people out there who deny that global warming or other similar circumstances exist. Even scientists can’t convince them anymore, so I wanted to dedicate this to such thoughts. The record is there to create awareness for certain topics, but I didn’t want to make it too heavy. It’s more like a very playful way of dealing with our perspectives.”
‘What If’ represents the first time that Bertelmann has worked with anyone else on one of his solo albums. “Half of the record was recorded with Francesco Donadello, who also mixed the entire album at his Vox-Ton Studio in Berlin,” Bertelmann says, “where our basis was first-take recordings of my improvisations, before I then did overdubs. The second half was recorded in my studio with a Yamaha Disklavier (a contemporary player piano that can record performances to a MIDI file), where I captured layers of programmed pianos and worked with my hands like a filter for the sound.”
Hauschka’s ‘What If’ album is out March 31 on City Slang. You can stream the entire album via NPR below;