Ulrich Schnauss: Goodbye

A mere ten seconds into Goodbye and it's clear Ulrich Schnauss has taken the full shoegaze plunge, with the album's ten epic songs calling to mind the glory days of Lush in particular as well as Slowdive, Ride, Cocteau Twins, and My Bloody Valentine. Not that the move is in any way objectionable when Schnauss shows himself to be such a deft practitioner of the genre, and when his vocal partner on the trip is Judith Beck. Of course, there's always been a shoegaze quality to his music but it's never been as pronounced as it is on this third album; furthermore, 2001's Far Away Trains Passing By and 2003's A Strangely Isolated Place were more generally populated with lush instrumental settings whereas Goodbye, despite the presence of an instrumental or two, is structurally more song-oriented.

Throughout the album, Schnauss constructs massive, guitar-heavy cathedrals of sound which intensify explosively during the songs' choruses (apparently, some of the songs have about one hundred tracks playing simultaneously). The walls of sound in “Shine” and “A Song About Hope,” for example, rise to frankly awesome pitches during the songs' most climactic moments, while “Stars” ascends from not-quite-a-whisper to a thunderous roar. One strains to decipher lyrics amidst the sonic eruptions but, ultimately, whatever words Beck's singing are immaterial, as her voice is designed to function primarily as a sonic element (vocals amount to little more than a blur during the storm of “Medusa,” for instance). Schnauss lowers the volume and intensity for “In Between the Years,” a shuddering ambient instrumental style that would have fit comfortably on either of his previous albums, while the becalmed “For Good” provides a sweet, lullaby-like coda. The album's eight-minute title track is perhaps the most ambitious as it breezily flows through different moods and parts, sparkling beatifically at one moment and soaring grandiosely the next. Goodbye impresses as a fine example of the shoegaze genre, though admittedly its more singularly circumscribed dynamic range doesn't allow for the degree of nuance that characterize Schnauss's first two albums.

July 2007