No recording in recent memory has struck me as being so meticulously designed as Recondite's Hinterland: the placement of every sound seems to have been painstakingly considered, and there's not a single lapse in taste to be heard on the ten-track album. The downside of such perfectionism can be sterility, spontaneity suffering when every element is mulled over so obsessively, but no such deficiency is evident in this case. Despite its meticulousness, Hinterland breathes with a cool grace that effectively suggests the barren natural landscape of Lorenz Brunner's lower Bavaria homeland and the personality of his hometown Rottal-Inn. If it's true that the album represents an attempt on its creator's part to depict the “emotions of the four seasons” and “characteristics of people's minds,” one would have to infer that the character of the land and its inhabitants is generally subdued, grey, and brooding. Here's one case where the mist-laden landscape shown in the cover photograph closely mirrors the tenor of the recording's music.
Refreshingly free of excess, every track includes the sounds needed and no more. Elements methodically appear in sequence and layers gradually accumulate until the music reaches its carefully calibrated saturation point. Field recordings gathered from a number of visits to the German region constitute part of the overall design, but they're integrated so subtly into the music's fabric they largely blend imperceptibly into a given track's arrangement (“Floe” is the rare instance where they're clearly audible).
On representative cuts such as “Leafs,” “Riant,” and “Clouded,” the inclusion of snappy club beats gives Hinterland the identity of an electronic dance music album, but the album's soothing settings are more tailor-made for the after-hours lounge. An interesting contrast in mood emerges in a setting such as “Stems”: rhythmically it swings with purposeful intensity yet in terms of atmospheric design it feels suffused with melancholy and gloom.
That Hinterland is a recording meant to be appreciated for its details is shown in the way a bright melodic pattern floats into view during “Abscondence” and how it pans from side to side. Such a detail is easy to overlook when the bass pulse and driving drum pattern occupy the listener's attention, but it's there waiting to be detected by the discerning listener. This Ghostly International debut impresses as a remarkably refined collection by the Berlin-based Brunner, who also has released material on Hotflush, Dystopian, and his own Plangent Records imprint.