- Watching Hauschka play live is extraordinary. A classically trained exponent of "prepared piano"—prepared, in Hauschka's, case with everything from tinfoil and ping-pong balls to the occasional sex toy—the German artist creates an agile, mercurial sound that seems an impossible product from just one man and a piano. His left hand bashes out rattling percussion, while the right conjures delicate melodies, all moving through passages of urgent 4/4 propulsion to moments of cliff-edge drama and crushing tenderness. This is not just a brilliant technical feat, this is emotionally powerful music.
To an extent, that is captured in 2.11.14, a live recording made in Japan. But the album feels like a curio compared to Abandoned City, the stunning studio album on which these long improvisations are based. Where that LP was expansive and loquacious, a commanding piece of great poise, this is Volker Bertelmann at his most punk-ish: recorded rough & ready through two-channels on the mixing desk. The approach leaves his music sounding one-dimensional.
Particularly on "Part 2," when distorting percussion bleeds into layers of ambient noise (created using a few delay effects), 2.11.14 conveys the energy of Hauschka live. However, where his frenzied pace and droning textures add a new layer of absorbing drama, they also mitigate against two qualities that made Abandoned City soar: its crisp, almost Latin-inspired rhythm and masterful control of space, tension and momentum. You cannot but come away from 2.11.14 thinking it is a lesser album.
A1 Part 1
B1 Part 2