Pictured at front-center, from left to right: Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer, and Paul Frick
Photo: Park Bennett
Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer, and Paul Frick—collectively known as Brandt Brauer Frick, or BBF—are always searching for weird sounds that they can edit, layer, sequence, and shape into a new hybrid. The trio''s experimentation results in minimalist dance music comprising spectral threads of jazz and classical influences that are spun indelibly into the whole.
According to Brandt, the band tracks its sessions in Garage Studios, a converted garage next to his parents'' house in Wiesbaden, Germany, and the group''s approach to music comes naturally. “We aren''t originally from the house or techno music scene,” he explains. “We always played in rock bands or jazz bands or orchestras, so for us it''s much easier just to jam in the studio with a prepared piano, a few synthesizers, and two drum kits, and then be able to finish it in this sequenced way. We don''t program something on the spot. We just want to make the sounds we like to make, and that''s what drives all of it.”
Sonic excursions are at the heart of You Make Me Real (!K7 Records, 2010), a movement-oriented outing that relies on densely interlocking polyrhythms, whether they originate with a muted piano (“Paparazzi”); plucked strings and low-end synth stabs (“Caffeine”); sampled-and-chopped bass clarinet (“Heart of Stone”); or a piano prepared according to Cage''s notations (“R.W. John,” which is dedicated to the maestro). Using only an AKG C 414 XLS microphone to record (all electronic instruments go direct), BBF funnel their sounds, melodies, and beats into Ableton Live, and then begin cutting up and sequencing the results until a song emerges.
“It''s not that we write down the songs and then play them like a band,” Brandt says. “We just record a lot of tracks, and sometimes we don''t even put them in the song, but we end up with a written version later for a large ensemble if we want it. And we don''t do any signal processing. We actually use almost no features from the software except to loop, record, and arrange. When we play live, I use the Impulse function in Ableton to trigger my drum sounds [from a Roland V-Drum kit], but that''s it.”
To maximize the creative possibilities, the band never has a set plan going into the studio. And with a production technique that is as stripped-down as their music (Frick pre-mixed the entirety of You Make Me Real in Ableton Live before handing it off to Rashad Becker for final mixing and mastering in Logic), BBF still manage to infuse their sound with a warmth, accessibility, and sense of humor that contrasts sharply with the starkness of such German techno godfathers as Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk.
“None of that music is a big influence, but, of course, we know it,” Brandt says. “I''m living in Cologne, which was also a different scene—there was [the band] Can, for example, and [Karlheinz] Stockhausen—but for us, the feeling is more modern, like Steve Reich, or Herbie Hancock, or even 4hero. We don''t really think too much about it, though. The way we build a song is always different. Sometimes it starts with a beat, sometimes with a melody. We just spend a few days recording these raw tracks and see what happens.”
Home base:Wiesbaden, Germany
Main software: Ableton Live 8
Key synths: Moog Little Phatty, Nord Wave and Electro