One man quartet
Some of the best music is often hard to categorize. And I don’t mean interesting music – for that it might even be enough to not fit into a neat little genre box. I mean really good stuff that keeps you listening to it even after a decade or more. Something that doesn’t follow some kind of tradition, trend, fad, something that sort of has its own little niche in the music world.
The Bersarin Quartett (with a double T as it is written in German) is one of the best examples you can find. It’s like a tiny little planet that is circling the the sun all by itself, on an eccentric orbit somewhere out there, defying the laws of musical gravity, a world where one man can be a quartet and where time isn’t really of significance.
The man they call a quartet is Thomas Bücker, and he is one of those musicians that just do whatever they want. He would probably be the first one to deny that he is following some kind of plan or that his music is the result of a specific vision. Like many other Germans of his generation he got into early electronic music, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and he once said that back then it had to be instrumental. No vocals. I can fully relate to that.
He also liked (or maybe still likes) Jean Michel Jarre even though his confession of that is always accompanied by a little bit of embarrassment. That I can also relate to very well. I probably wouldn’t admit that if it was the case (I just checked – the only thing by Jean Michel Jarre I have in my collection is a remix by Funkstörung). Still, his other musical project is called Jean Michel, and he sometimes lists the Frenchman’s “Zoolook” album as one of his main influences.
Bücker has a nice little design Studio called “Eins A” in Münster, up in Northwestern Germany, a lovely little city. So he is also doing the design for the albums he publishes, and since he’s also a pretty capable sound engineer he is doing the mastering as well.
Just how good he is at all of these things is showcased in the Bersarin Quartett’s first album, and it is a blueprint for his so not blueprintable style. Discogs pulled out labels like Ambient, Dark Ambient and Modern Classical, but they are approximations at best. It’s a miracle the platform’s swarm of contributors is not battling over which category this belongs in.
It’s probably smarter to look at who Bücker is touring with to get an idea of where his quartet’s style can be placed. Murcof for example, on the more clearly electronic side of the spectrum – or the Hidden Orchestra, representing Bücker’s love for what he calls “Bombast”, creating big audio spaces for dramatic orchestrations. He traveled with Fennesz and Dictaphone as well, also making a lot of sense.
On “Mehr Als Alles Andere” (translating as “more than anything else”) the comparison to Hidden Orchestra is quite self-evident, including the slightly broken beats, the lavish application of synth waves and the moody strings. Bücker is just a touch more electronic – the drama, the way the elements are arranged, the depth and storytelling – it’s all there and on equally high level.
Sometimes his sound seems to reference mid/late-90s artists that tried to mix Electronic Ambient music with elements that later would be classified as Downbeat. Things you would have heard during the famous “Space Night” sessions on German late night TV when endless space station video coverage of earth flyovers was accompanied by electronic chilled out music. The album’s opener “Oktober” would have very well fit that bill.
One phrase that seems to accompany Bücker in all of what he does is “The things are not the way they are”. It’s a sentence that is found on his website (with the addition of “They are what we turn them into”) and it’s one of the most serene and atmospheric titles on this album – the one that would probably most justify the use of Dark Ambient as a categorization, at least during the first four minutes. Slightly brooding and dark with a sluggish beat – for a moment Bohren & Der Club Of Gore seem to have dropped by. Then the drums set in and things at least aren’t anymore the way they were until that moment.
Other parts of the album are related to early 2000s Electronica. The second track on this album “Geschichten Von Interesse” (translated “Stories Of Interest”) would really mix well with the finest tracks off Yasume’s “Where We’re From The Birds Sing A Pretty Song” (2003). With every track it becomes more obvious that Bücker is very experienced in and good at creating soundscapes and soundtracks.
For most of the album the Modern Classical label seems a little far-fetched – but there are moments when the quartet sounds more like an orchestra playing some lesser known late Impressionist composer’s work with some added electronic elements. “St. Petersburg” is a good example, reminding me of Respighi’s “Trittico Botticelliano”. Or the quiet and slightly mournful “Und Die Welt Steht Still” (“And The World Stands Still”) that might have been inspired by Henryk Górecki, working with a few sparse chords that just keep repeating while they grow and grow, and just when you think it will all go up in flames the chords are subtly taken over by a soothing set of strings.
With all of the different moods, contrasts and styles the verdict of an album that plays with different genres would be a bit of a mistake though. It never seems as if Thomas Bücker is picking things from different drawers to come up with something that is deliberately eclectic. He just does his thing, it’s obvious. It’s music made by someone that loves music for people who love music.
That’s probably one of the reasons why this album keeps getting represses ever since it was released in 2008. This is going to keep aging well, and I am glad this repress was equipped with a digital download. Perfect for slipping away from the discomfort of long train rides or night flights, off to a world where a man can be a quartet and tiny little planets are choosing their orbits based on how they feel.
Release for review:
BERSARIN QUARTETT – BERSARIN QUARTETT – DENOVALI – DEN48