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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hauschka - Salon des Amateurs: B+

It’s not a very fair comparison to make, but I cannot listen to Haushka’s newest album, Salon des Amateurs, without equating the German-born pianist to the Colin Stetson of ivory tickling. The man has been known in the seven years or so that he’s been making music as the guy who fusses with the piano and perverts its sound in ways that yield odd results. He then records the best of these contortions and, in this case, accompanies them with electronic instruments and brass. With all this in mind, listening to Salon des Amateurs gives me the impression that I am listening to a tame version of Colin Stetson’s apocalyptic bass saxophone farts; a little strange but rarely warranting of a double take.

However, with all this talk of distorting the piano, the sounds emitted from Hauschka’s, for the most part, sound pretty much like that of a piano. Sometimes it’s a little funky, sometimes a little muted, but there’s nothing particularly breathtaking about Salon des Amateurs in regard to Hauschka’s use of his instrument. In fact, what the album sounds most like is the iconic music that would go over B-roll of white-collar workers bustling through the streets of New York City in the Roaring 20’s. Salon des Amateurs is an excellent album to listen to on the drive to your job at a hedge fund or while you’re waiting in the lobby of a time machine transporting you to The Harlem Renaissance. In this regard, Salon des Amateurs invariably works best as background music, but it is fantastic background music at that. The album could make you a little lighter on your feet as it soundtracks your day, hardly the experimental hodgepodge that has characterized Hauscka’s earlier work.

So while Colin Stetson definitely has the upper hand in the ambition department, Hauschka is much better at crafting songs, writing pieces that come off as undoubtedly cohesive if a little boring as Salon des Amateurs comes to a close. Still, it’s fun to hear an artist be nostalgic for the post-retro. Salon des Amateurs may be unobtrusive by its nature, but it is a testament to Haushcka’s reliance on consistency over experimentation to make an album that does its job very, very well.


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