zazie von einem anderen stern, regen:tropfen

zazie von einem anderen stern, regen:tropfen

The first time I heard a John Cage piece, I was floored. Being in a pretty steady post-punk revival phase at the time (give me a break, I was fifteen), the idea of music that was non-melodic was totally foreign to me. Yet when I was confronted with this totally avant-garde and dissonant piece, “Sonata II for Prepared Piano,” it made me sit up and take notice.

I got a similar feeling from listening to zazie von einem anderen stern, (in English: “zazie from another star”), who definitely takes some cues from the late Mr. Cage. Born and raised in Heidelberg, Germany, Maike Zazie Matern has the classical piano training to make her a skilled musician and the creativity to do something original with it. She composes experimental neo-classical piano pieces and combines them with white noise, field recordings, and improvised instrumental bits to swathe the listener in complete environments of sound. Simultaneously ambient and earthy, Matern’s music defies catagorization.

In 2006 she started her solo project, zazie von einem anderen stern, and began work on her debut album regen:tropfen (in English: “rain:drops”) in 2008, composing and recording in Berlin and Uppsala, Sweden. Citing influences as varied as Miles Davis, Tori Amos, and Björk, Matern tried to combine what she had learned from pop and jazz with the gentle sounds of her home and family. The resulting album is a masterpiece. Although every song stands alone as a work of art, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Glittering with a bright, childlike quality throughout, the feeling of the album drifts naturally from melancholy to blissful peace. “intro” and “morgen” start things off slowly before going into “raum ohne zeit,” which is easily the heaviest track on the album, filled with the sounds of rolling thunder and distressed voices speaking quietly in German and Swedish. The calm after the storm is “regentropfen,” which features Matern’s own gentle singing and a delicately tinkling glockenspiel. My favorite song, though, is “im juli,” which portrays Matern at her most inventive. In it, the endearing sounds of tambourines and bells accompany the simple piano line that positively glows with warmth.

Hearing an album as original as regen:tropfen helps to remind one that there are still unexplored regions of music to be pioneered. Matern is just the kind of girl we want at the head of that expedition, too — with this full-length and her multi-instrumental sound poem an open field, she definitely has ideas about the lines that separate music, poetry, voice theatre, and other sound arts that I don’t even have the vocabulary for. If we’re lucky, she’ll continue to create genre- and discipline-defying work to challenge and entertain her listeners.

(Feature photo by Ralph Etter.)

(Drifting Falling -- http://driftingfalling.com/; zazie von einem anderen stern -- http://www.maikezazie.de/; zazie von einem anderen stern (Myspace) -- http://www.myspace.com/zazievoneinemanderenstern; zazie von einem anderen stern (Soundcloud) -- http://soundcloud.com/driftingfalling/sets/regen-tropfen/)
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Review by . Review posted Friday, February 11th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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