It's safe to say that the first half of the '00s has been good to German producer Ulrich Schnauss — so much so that he's retreated from Berlin to Kiel, Germany, on the shore of the Baltic Sea for a little quiet recording time. Since the release of his delicately lush breaks-and-atmospherics debut, Far Away Trains Passing By (CCO, 2001), and its follow-up, the electronic-shoegaze masterpiece A Strangely Isolated Place (CCO, 2003), Schnauss has kept an extended schedule of tour dates and remix projects. Although producing remixes for the likes of Mojave 3, Longwave and Sia has its rewards, it doesn't always allow him to focus on his own material. So a little “isolation therapy,” as he calls it, was in order.
Free from distraction in Kiel, Schnauss has been focusing on his third full-length release, as yet untitled, due sometime this year. Although Schnauss acknowledges that he could have easily produced another Isolated Place, he still has plenty of other musical ideas to develop — though the new tracks will still feature his signature sense of melancholy. Like with his previous work, Schnauss first wrote the new material on piano before taking it to the studio to work out sound and arrangement ideas.
“In terms of a more general production approach, I tried to take the layering method one step further,” Schnauss says. “While my first album was still about achieving a fairly transparent, clear overall sound, Isolated Place was a first attempt at deliberately messing things up. Mixing the new songs, I tried to merge all tracks into one big wall of sound, even by sacrificing the presence of some of the individual elements — some of the songs have up to 80 individual tracks playing simultaneously. I like productions that generate depth out of stuff that's happening in the background, things that you might not actively hear but still affect a subconscious listening experience.”
As on his past two albums, Schnauss used hardware synths to craft most of his source material, but he made an effort to use more plug-in effects in his sound-design efforts this time around. He cites Cycling '74 Pluggo and Native Instruments Reaktor as two of his new tools. Nevertheless, he does offer one bit of advice in the hardware-versus-software debate. “As much as I might enjoy the processing options that software offers, I'd always strongly recommend to create the actual source material using quality hardware instruments,” Schnauss says. “Unfortunately, in the last 10 years, not a lot of instruments like that have been built — Dave Smith's Poly Evolver and most of the Waldorf synths probably being an exception — that's why I'm also still using a lot of so-called vintage gear, both digital and analog.”