Album Reviews: A Strangely Isolated Place by Ulrich SchnaussTaken at face value, the music on Ulrich Schnauss' A Strangely Isolated Place should be the schlockiest stuff imaginable. Every track is a blissed-out sugar rush of warm, sticky synths poured over melodies so delicate and pretty they wouldn't be out of place on a John Tesh record. But for the most part, Schnauss sidesteps the cheese. Like a good romance novelist, he serves up emotionally satisfying payoffs without ever resorting to cheap sentimentality or cliche. The resulting collection of eight ethereal instrumentals may be the year's most warm-hearted electronica album.
Much of A Strangely Isolated Place is roll-a-joint-and-lie-on-the-floor stuff, but at its best and brightest, Schnauss' music is almost triumphant, the sort of stuff they play over the closing credits of feel-good coming-of-age flicks. "A Letter From Home" and "Clear Day" soar angelically over jaunty breakbeats; "On My Own" chugs along with the giddily hypnotic fervor of a lost New Order track. Other current electronica acts like Lemon Jelly and Bent have made similar forays into this kind of postmodern bliss-pop, but where their music is pretty in a self-conscious, flirtatious kind of way, Schnauss achieves an unlikely purity and beauty in the sleek simplicity of his compositions.
Two years ago I would have said this stuff is way too precious to catch on, but with uplifting trance making a comeback in clubland and The Polyphonic Spree leading indie kids down the path of light, Ulrich Schnauss may be making the right sounds at the right time. - Andy Hermann
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