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Ambient/downtempo is not the style primarily associated with conceptual symphonies, but the one-man project Schiller (Christopher von Deylen) pulls it off remarkably well on Atemlos (Breathless), mostly by a clever mix of different types of musical material. The atmospheric bits that form the majority of Atemlos are tempered by straight-on Europop recorded with the help of guest vocalists, all of whom recite their lines in slightly pompous half-whispers typical for new age, but still to good result: the otherworldly-but-catchy dance pieces -- with the occasional bit of pop/rock instrumentation -- go a long way toward explaining why the record charted in the German Top Three. Most of the vocal tracks have a fleeting kitschy vibe, but also the grace to never become earworms, which would have only been out of place here: the album remains a primarily downtempo affair, drifting on the waves of soft instrumentals consisting of midtempo beats and tingling and sparkling synthesizer textures that are not exactly original -- a lot of comparisons, from slower B12 to slower Tangerine Dream, come to mind -- but succeed in building a dreamy mood, with the more involved tracks stirring the listener's attention every once in a while to prevent it from floating too far away. Atemlos was inspired by a trip to the Arctic as part of a scientific expedition on the fittingly named Polarstern (The North Star) vessel, but, like most music, especially electronica, it is abstract enough to fit all sorts of pleasantly moody settings and introspective activities -- though once you know it, it's hard to get images of icebergs, endless ice fields shining in the sun, and clear northern skies out of your head. But this only confirms that Schiller succeeded with this record, sprawling as it may be.

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