Michael Rother

Esperanza

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Issued in 1996, Esperanza was Michael Rother's first new record in three years, and turned out to be his last before the close of the millennium. What is so striking about Esperanza upon first listen is the almost pervasive feeling of quiet. Rother was one of the first rock musicians to experiment with drum machines and electronics for the purpose of creating minimal backdrops, but, conversely, he was also one of the first to use them to nearly transcendent emotional effect. His innovation helped to usher in both the ambient and trance movements, as he was employing the very same methodologies in his music a full decade before anyone had coined the terms -- including Brian Eno. So what is startling about the muted soundscapes of Esperanza is not only their change in texture and feel, but the equanimity of their power. Over 17 tracks, Rother creates a soundtrack for a film noir of the mind. Tracks like "Silver Sands," with their shimmering piano backdrops, or "Weil Schnee und Eiss," with its found sounds and semi-industrial framework, or "Glox," with its chimes glistening all over the front of the mix as a prelude for the pianistic drum rock of "Gleitflug." There are also timberline rhythms and shimmering hushes of guitar and bass, all in a hushed synthscape reflected back at the listener with taste, grace, and aplomb. On the final track, "The Spirit of '72," Rother moves toward a refracted psychedelia that reflects the influence of Indian raga on Krautrock; it's quizzical and mystifying, but also very beautiful. Esperanza is Michael Rother so far, full of ideas and ambient vistas that are only touched upon here and point in one direction: further in.

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