CD: Niklas Paschburg - Oceanic

Submitted by joe.muggs on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 00:00

Of all the wave of neoclassical or postclassical music of the past half decade or so, some of the most popular is a new breed of rippling, repetitive solo piano piece. And, really, I mean staggeringly popular: Spotify's Peaceful Piano playlist, curated in-house, has three and three-quarter million subscribers, and a simple inclusion of a track on this playlist is enough to earn a composer a good few quid. As well as established film composers and and artists like Nils Frahm, Max Richter and co, Spotify include plenty of unknowns so, given the low overheads for recording a short, won't-scare-the-horses piano piece, there's been a deluge of this stuff. Some even suspect pieces are being written by algorithm purely for inclusion on lucrative playlists.

This vexes some people: among social media and critical chatter there is a school that loathes this music as being aspirational, characterless background music, and as such disposable or ideologically suspect. This is of course, hugely snobbish, and as I've written elsewhere often carries with it some icky, edgier-than-thou attitudes towards intimacy and the domestic sphere. It's particularly ironic, too, given that many of the same sections of critical opinion that bristle at this wave of music, will give a pass to Brian Eno's deliberate “wallpaper music” because it is framed in more cerebral terms, or to new age sounds of the Seventies and Eighties because there's enough historical distance to treat it as exotic.

All of which brings us to Niklas Paschburg, here on the German dance and experimental label !K7's new neoclassical offshoot 7K!. This is super classy music, often shot through with floating synthesiser chords and the occasionaly slow, steady kickdrum – but ultimately reliant on those arpeggiated or gently cycling chords of the piano. And it's... lovely. Yes, sometimes several tracks will float by without you noticing the transitions, but that's a measure of its success. Like good minimalist electronic music, or good interior design, it's about using shapes and textures to conjure a general mood, leaving space for the listener's own thoughts and emotions to unfold into. And this does it very, very well. No, it's not revolutionary, but why should it have to be?

Watch the video for the single, "Spark":