Picture Music

André Bratten

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Picture Music Review

by Paul Simpson

After the challenging but mesmerizing dark ambient soundscapes of 2020's black metal-inspired Silvester, André Bratten gravitated back towards melodic, beat-driven material with his fifth album, Picture Music. Sharing its title with a 1975 Klaus Schulze record as well as a 1977 compilation on Krautrock label Sky Records, the album does touch on cosmic influences, but it's nothing close to a genre exercise. Stitched together with several hazy ambient instrumentals and interludes, ranging from a VHS-like intro to a brief excerpt from a tape-recorded piano recital, the record delves into melancholy downtempo synth pop with its first song, "Ballroom." Faint vocoders sing over a blooming melody and trippy drum machines, which become a bit more antsy near the end, tripling up the skipping beats. "NDKCK" reduces the gravity, so the beats seem to skitter weightlessly and randomly at first, but they settle into more of a pattern as the synth pads become richer and warmer. "Muerte Al Revés" and "Picture Music" are further attempts at downbeat art-pop, with the title track being the more developed one. Squishy, abrasive beats rock back and forth to a spacious melody recalling µ-ziq at his most heartbroken. "Fold" seems to be little more than a vibrating bass tone and highly detailed, mutating beats recalling Boards of Canada in trip-hop mode. Turn the volume way up, however, and additional textures and atmospheric layers are revealed. The remaining tracks on the album progressively drift further outward, until "Evening" concludes the set with somber pianos over an indeterminate crackling sound. Picture Music puts Bratten's music back in motion after the barren Silvester, yet it ends up being some of his most introspective work to date.

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