Sven Laux: Paper Streets

Born in Neubrandenburg, Germany and currently residing in Berlin, Sven Laux, so we're told, began “writing electronic music in 1998 after discovering a talent for meticulously sampling and looping audio.” As any well-informed student of the ambient-electronic genre will know, such a description could be applied to any number of producers, and, in fact, there are occasions where one could conceivably hear Paper Streets as a creation by Wolfgang Voigt's GAS (albeit with beats removed) or Marsen Jules; an additional artist-related detail identifies Laux as someone who “paints minimal landscapes with watercolours in shades of violin, cello, and piano,” which also could be applied to those artistic brethren. All of which is simply intended to provide some preliminary impression of the musical terrain Laux inhabits, not so much to criticize him for being overly derivative or lacking in originality. It's more simply the case that he's operating within a realm shared with others.

Pitched as a “neo-classical journey heard through a cinematic lens,” Paper Streets fashions sawing strings and harp-like plucks into shimmering orchestral colossi, never more effectively than during “A Glimpse of Memory” where, for six transfixing minutes, a four-note strings motif surges and in the pauses between repetitions electrical flourishes radiate. An occasional real-world creak or two emerges to render the sound design less ethereal, and a grainy surface texture undergirds string surges in “The Lost Violin” to give the material an electronic dimension, but for the most part the settings invite an ambient-classical classification. Beatless like the album in general, “Out of the Blue” sees string elements brooding in a manner that's almost Mahler-like, though at five minutes Laux's material can't possibly match a twenty-minute movement from a Mahler symphony in terms of development.

If the eight settings on Paper Streets are relatively straightforward in construction, generated as they were using loops, samples, and field recordings, they nevertheless impress in how their various strands are woven together. Consider by way of example how elegantly Laux conjoins strings to piano figures within “From Sadness to You” and “There's Still Hope.” There's no question it's artfully done, even if Paper Streets could, for the most part, pass for a production by Marsen Jules as much as one by Laux.

December 2017