Löwenritter: Prelude - Ten Seconds Before Sunrise
Kalinkaland Records

Classifying Löwenritter's debut album Prelude - Ten Seconds Before Sunrise as ambient, even New Age, might deter some potential listeners from checking it out, but it would be their loss. Yes, minimal piano phrases do drape themselves meditatively across deeply atmospheric backdrops filled with luscious electronic and shimmering guitar-generated textures, but the effect is less sleep-inducing than entrancing. Judging by the track titles, Löwenritter duo Dirk Ritter (Seasurfer, Dark Orange) and Harald Löwy (Chandeen) appear to have a particular concept in mind for the album, one concerning vampires roaming the misty countrysides and forests before the advent of dawn. The album's ten moodscapes, however, are in no way as macabre as a track title such as “Ballad for a Vampire” might suggest. Issued on the Hamburg, Weimar-based Kalinkaland Records, which Löwy founded in 2001, the fifty-minute album instead conjures the image of an untroubled paradise where transporting instrumentals tint the air with delicate, reverb-scented sounds.

As mentioned, piano is a central element but so too are ethereal voices and guitars, and traces of nature-based field recordings emerge here and there also. The settings wherein electric guitar are accentuated (e.g., “Pearls of a Rosary”) invite comparison on sonic grounds to Robin Guthrie's solo output, and in such cases one also might be reminded of the collaborative work Guthrie's done with Harold Budd. All of the album's pieces are in the two- to five-minute range, with one exception: “Exodus,” an aptly titled setting of dramatic scene-painting that extends for a full thirteen minutes and whose said exodus is conveyed in the insistent percussion pattern that loops alongside the repeating piano motif and that helps intensify the track's hypnotic effect. And, for the record, Prelude - Ten Seconds Before Sunrise doesn't hew to a single mood only, even if the greater majority of it is peaceful. Not surprisingly, “The Shadow Line,” for example, possesses a gloomy character that signifies a detour into the darker part of the forest, while “Stir Against the Sunset” hints at some degree of disturbance in the woozy undertow of its rhythmic design.

January 2014