Bersarin Quartett: Bersarin Quartett

Notwithstanding the name, the Bersarin Quartett appears to be a project spearheaded by a single individual identified only as Thomas (no surname divulged) who hails from Münster. If anything, the group's name should more accurately be re-christened Bersarin Orchestra, given how full-bodied the arrangements are on the group's hour-long release. The group's emotional and dramatic sound—the urge to call it “cinematic” is strong, especially when the material is elsewhere described as “movies that have yet to be shot” —results from a graceful and well-executed fusion of electronic and orchestral elements.

“Oktober” opens the album with lush swells of orchestral trip-hop. Mid-tempo beats slip and slide beneath a delicate flow of whispering synth tones and multi-layers of strings. Here and elsewhere (certainly in the pieces that include beats), it's hard not to think of Murcof when the Bersarin Quartett strives to blend orchestral elements and beats so seamlessly. Repeating flute and oboe motifs lend “Geschichten Von Interesse” a mysterious air while cascading keyboard melodies add a light touch of melancholy and slow-motion beats once again suggest a trip-hop dimension. The orchestral trip-hop of “Endlich Am Ziel” suggests kinship between the Bersarin Quartett and Angelo Badalamenti. “Mehr Als Alles Andere” ends the recording memorably with a lovely string-laden arrangement that gradually builds in intensity until it's joined by techno-funk beats and bright glockenspiel tinkles.

Bersarin Quartett is an accomplished collection, but the material sans beats impresses more, simply because the pieces that include them align themselves too closely to work released by others and because the pieces without them exude a purer and less earth-bound classical character. For instance, there's an appealing ethereal quality about the tranquil meander of woodwinds, strings, and piano in the first section of “Die Dinge Sind Nie So Wie Sie Sind” but that dimension is lost when jazzy drum patterns and horns appear in the second. Sometimes the shift in personality works: in “Nachtblind,” for example, a smooth segue is effected from a melodramatic piano-and-strings chamber style to a dreamy late-night jazz club ballad. Of the remaining pieces, three in particular leave a strong impression: the nine-minute “Und Die Welt Steht Still” focuses in its first half on an intense, rippling drone that decompresses in the second to allow swaying string motifs to be heard; in “Inversion,” an impenetrably dense slab of strings rises to a violent climax before dropping to near-silence for the ruminative aftermath; and, in keeping with its title, racing rhythm patterns, impressionistic piano filigrees, and waves of strings evoke a setting that's both magisterial and teeming with activity in “St. Petersburg.”

March 2008