Cass.: Loops & Farewell Sketches

As an electronic music genre, dark ambient is widely available, whereas its diametric counterpart seems to be less common, perhaps because darkness tends to be associated with deeper existential matters and prettiness is thereby devalued as shallow by comparison. That's a shame because an album such as Loops & Farewell Sketches, the debut collection by Niklas Rehme-Schlüter under the Cass. name, is certainly pretty, but it's also worthy of one's attention. The young Germany-based producer has fashioned an eight-track debut full-length (100 copies) that while short by CD standards at thirty-four minutes proves nonetheless to be a rewarding listen.

There's a peacefulness and stillness to the album that evokes the wintry quietude of a remote cabin surrounded by snow-covered fields and trees (the cover painting, which was inspired by the landscape of Sammaljoki, Finland, also suggests as much). Unfolding in meditative swirls, the music was assembled from vinyl samples, field recordings, synths, acoustic instruments, and Rehme-Schlüter's voice. The opening pieces “Aiiy” and “Rustling and Pure” augment pretty loops and twinkling sounds with soft wordless vocalizing (the latter track even includes an energized beat pattern—a rarity on the album). Adding to the music's organic qualities, bird sounds appear within “Falmer Sea Piano I” alongside the peaceful pitter-patter of the electric piano and found sound noises, the latter of which suggest that Rehme-Schlüter's been aborbing Ezekiel Honig's music (the closing “Ethan Veerbek” invites a similar comparison).

Though Loops & Farewell Sketches is no game-changer, one presumes that that wasn't what Rehme-Schlüter had in mind. Instead, one imagines he set out to produce an appealing collection of softly shimmering ambient material, and on such grounds the goal has been met. There's a relaxed and peaceful vibe about the album's sonic tinting and blue-grey tonality that also enhances its appeal.

March 2013