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The Music of Roland Sebastian Faber

I recently came across this audio work I made back in 2010. It is was one of the first things I had made as FOTW Audio Productions. And at the time, I was quite proud of it.

I’d set up this website the year before, after a friend suggested that WordPress was the way to go, and I started by using it as a music review blog where I could write about all of this great, new music I was discovering, like the Aube label.

I think I had written to the label owner of Aube, Michael Künzer, who then gave me the sound files for one of his new releases, Gropiusstadt, by Roland Sebastian Faber, another German musician, who was living in London, producing music under the moniker Kinky Roland.

This felt like a great opportunity to make an audio review, instead of a written one — and I unintentionally structured it like a mini documentary. I recorded it on my Rode NT2A, which I had bought a few years earlier, and my Marantz audio recorder. But then I edited it together on a tiny Netbook, which I was amazed could handle the audio software and processing!

As you can hear, my mic technique is not that great, and the conditions I’ve recorded it under could definitely be better – but I was still very happy with how this turned out. One thing that you discover, is that when you are working with good quality music, it helps to magically transform your audio work, and also, give you a greater level of inspiration.

This in a way, gave me some practice and ideas, which would later lead to making a feature length documentary in 2013 about the electronic musicians who were influenced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

I was pleased that many years later, I spoke to ‘Madame Pompadour’ who was involved with the electro/CBS Radio scene, and who had heard this documentary about Aube in the past, and we talked about how great their releases were.

This is a transcript of ‘The Music of Roland Sebastian Faber’:

“Electronic musician Roland 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 best known under the pseudonym of Kinky Roland, as well as a gamut of other aliases, he has worked on everything electronic, from Speed Garage to Darkwave synth-pop. He also has a massive number of remixes under his belt.

However, some of his most highly regarded releases have been under his full birth name of Roland Sebastian Faber, where he has gone back to his musical roots of melodic synthesizer music, found in the work of Klaus Schülze and the Berlin School of Electronic Music, as well as the French composer Jean-Michel Jarre.

His first 12-inch on the Aube label ‘Homage und 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-inch on Aube, ‘Wettkampf der Moleküle’ (Race of the Molecule).

Faber uses original analog 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 a 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.

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 of Architecture. 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 Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ with its 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. It’s got some great filmic moments too, with string sounds supporting the melody.

The visual arts also play an important role in the life of Faber’s music. All of his covers are designed by the legendary German artist, Emil Schult. Emil is famous for his 10 year artistic collaboration with Kraftwerk, having created some of their most recognisable covers and imagery, as well as co-writing songs with them, such as ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Model’.

Some of Faber’s traditional synthesiser sound also comes through in his work with Keen K, an old school friend from Germany, as the duo Starcluster. They started out in 2007 by remixing Jupiter Black’s dynamic and humorous tribute to Giorgio Moroder, ‘We Like Moroder‘.

But their first major release wasn’t until 2008, when Aube issued the self-titled Starcluster EP. Though featuring ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ with vocals by Marc Almond of the UK band Soft Cell, it was actually Starcluster’s original track ‘Winter of Ice‘ on the B-side that chilled listeners to the core with its darkwave sensibilities.

Starcluster are also high achievers as a live act. 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 Aube will also be putting out a new EP from Starcluster coming up soon, as well as a full album and another 12-inch later in the year from Roland Sebastian Faber.

Thanks for your company. You’ve been listening to the music of Roland Sebastian Faber and Starcluster. Thanks to Michael Künzer from Aube. This has been an FOTW Audio Production. Thanks for listening.”

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