Pretty in Pink: Emil Schult’s design for the Gropiusstadt EP (Aube009)
Electronic musician, Roland Sebastian Faber, although based in London, has always been strongly connected with the Düsseldorf label, Aube, since its inception in 2007. He worked as their audio engineer for their first release ‘Hold Me’ by Jupiter Black and Fred Ventura.
Although known under the pseudonym Kinky Roland (as well as a gamut of other aliases) he has worked on everything electronic from speed-garage to dark-wave synth-pop, and has a massive number of remixes under his belt.
However, some of his most highly regarded releases have been under his birth name, Roland Sebastian Faber, where he has gone back to his musical roots of melodic synthesizer music, found in the work of Klaus Schulze and the Berlin School of Electronic Music, and French composer Jean-Michel Jarre.
His first 12″ on the Aube label, Hommage An Die Jugend Europas (Homage to Europe’s Youth) in 2007 got great reviews, and ranked very highly in the Cybernetic Broadcasting System’s annual polling. He followed this up a year later with another 12″ on Aube, Wettkampf Der Moleküle (Race of the Molecule).
Faber uses original analogue synthesizers to create his sound, and they’ve long been a part of his life: he received his first synthesizer as a present from his parents when he was 15; and he’s gone on to master their use on both a technical and musical level. Some of the best elements of his music are his key changes; the subtle use of little ‘sound effects’ to enhance the atmosphere; and his ability to keep the listener engaged in a progressive musical experience — the trademark of his idol Klaus Schulze.
His new EP ‘Gropiusstadt’ takes its name from a housing estate district within Berlin, designed by the late German architect, Walter Gropius, who was the founder of the Bauhaus school.
The first two tracks of the EP have a strong Pink Floyd influence: Löffelkinder is an ultra-smooth track, slightly funky, with delayed guitar riffs, and heavily-reverbed female vocals. It’s a perfect blend of electronica and traditional instrumentation, and has a great sophistication in how it all fits together.
The second track, Gropiusstadt, is very reminiscent of Shine On You Crazy Diamond with it’s combination of shimmering synth pads, and solo guitar; but it’s well blended, and has enough of Faber’s trademark synth arpeggios to keep it original. It’s also got some great filmic moments too, with string sounds supporting the melody.
The third track, Morgengrau, is more low-key than the previous two, and has a dark electro feel, like the early work of Anthony Rother; but unfortunately, it does not stand out the same way the first two tracks do.
But it doesn’t really matter: this is still a great release.
Some of his traditional synthesizer sound also comes through in his work with Keen K — an old school friend from Germany — as the duo Starcluster. Their output so far hasn’t been prolific, but almost everything they have touched has turned to gold.
They started out by remixing Jupiter Black’s dynamic and humorous tribute to Giorgio Moroder, We Like Moroder in 2007, but their first major release wasn’t until 2008, when Aube released the self-titled Starcluster EP. It featured Smoke and Mirrors with vocals by Soft Cell‘s Marc Almond; but the stand-out track was Winter of Ice, a stand-alone song with a verse and chorus structure, and an instant addition to the canon of dark-wave music, in the spirit of bands like Laibach and Death In June.
As a live act, Starcluster also are high-achievers: they have a clear, tight sound, which is always a difficult thing for electronic artists to achieve, given the multi-layered and heavily sequenced nature of electronic music.
The good news is that there is a new EP from Starcluster to be released later this year by Aube, as well as another 12” from Roland Sebastian Faber — possible even a full album which his music deserves.
BEHIND THE LABEL
The Aube label is run by Michael Künzer, a Düsseldorf native, who has also been active in the music scene for a number of years. He is better known as Michael Black, one half of Jupiter Black, and one half of Unit 4, who released Bodydub back in 2003.
Michael describes aspects of Aube’s sound as “future-retro”, warm electronic music created with analogue instruments — a move away from purely using 1s and 0s, finding an accord with the pre-digital age of Jean Michel-Jarre, Alan Parsons, and Mike Oldfield.
On the Aube books are a diverse and international range of artists: the already mentioned Roland Sebastian Faber and Starcluster, but also the Dutch duo Elitechnique, who create New York-style disco, The Fascination Movement, a Seattle based synth-pop outfit making music in the vein of early eighties new-wave/new romantic artists; as well the vocal talents of the British singer Marc Almond and the Italian singer/producer, Fred Ventura.
From L-R: Artist Emil Schult, Marc Almond of Soft Cell, and artist Marc Brandenburg
But it’s not only musicians that Aube is harnessing; visual art plays a big part in the label and Michael works in close association with two German artists: Emil Schult, who designed album covers for Kraftwerk through the seventies, and the Berlin-based artist, Marc Brandenburg, who creates photo-realistic pencil drawings. He has also used the work of the British based commercial airbrush artist, Syd Brak, for the Jupiter Black releases.
There are many new releases on the horizon for Aube in 2010: Michael has almost finished a new Jupiter Black release with Fred Ventura; he has also teamed up with Roland Sebastian Faber to put out a release as Alba; as already mentioned, the new ones from Starcluster and Roland Sebastian Faber, as well as a full album for The Fascination Movement. — And if we’re lucky, there will also be a ‘Best of Aube’ somewhere in there.
Gropiusstadt is due to be released in February 2010.
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Roland Sebastian Faber: