Belp is the name that Sebastian Schnitzenbaumer, born in Munich but raised partially on the Seychelles islands off the coast of East Africa, uses to release music. He’s a prolific artist and also an essential key player in the effort of improving Munich’s role in the global scene. In a joined effort by the SVS platform and also Jahmoni -the dub-oriented division from Schamoni, label that Sebastian runs himself- the Hippopotamus LP reached our hands, and we got nothing but pleasure while listening to it.
Hippopotamus works on many levels, and it seems longer than it actually is. While it contains both a laid back orientation and also a club feel, like on the opener ‘Travelling Thru Galaxies’ and ‘Neocosmic Space Dub’, it´s also filled with a dub atmosphere throughout the album. Sci-fi hints and an early 90’s vibe on ‘Potential Noise’ and ‘Clinging To A Cloud’ made us remember some highlights of the Incunabula’s masterpiece by Autechre, but don’t get confused, this has a different approach, based mostly on breaks and an (even more) futuristic conception, that aims for greatness on the wonderful ‘Off Ending’ and ‘Slow’, with bass melody hints that find their way to get patched on the brain, these are our 2 favorites. As if trying to make a point with different rhythmical structures, varied sound formations rise and float around repetitive patterns. It might take some time for the tracks to reach their final shape, but the journey is enjoyable, and the result is worth the experience.
There’s also time for experimentation with interludes such as the granular and droney ‘Transmission’ and the following ‘By Beautenous Softness’, a hint of beauty emerging from the previous static that is an acappella rendition of a 17th century Henry Purcell piece, sung by Alexander Schneider. Layered structures and jazz influences feel stronger on the second half of the album, on songs like ‘Time And Again’ or ‘Lost Candidates’, the ending track, which also seems to be a briefing of everything the album was aiming for. Synth melodies floating around downtempo moods throughout break patterns of rhythm.
Throughout the listening experience we can feel enough space being given to every element to shine, a well layered oeuvre that was definitely built paying a lot of attention to every detail. It’s somehow comforting when ethereal background atmospheres work in contrast with the beats with such precision. There is the inevitable mystery that every great piece of art has, and yet a precise intention behind every moment.