Hinterlandt return with ‘Sollbruchstelle’, a lean, 19-minute EP that takes listeners through beautiful harmonic progressions and shifting time signatures in the quartet’s heaviest, densest, and most polyrhythmic work to date.
In comparison to the band’s previous album ‘Ode to Doubt’, ‘Sollbruchstelle’ is more direct and energetic, and marks a return to purely instrumental music. As always, the material was written by ensemble member, Jochen Gutsch, a German-born composer who combines an interest in unusual instrumentation, polyrhythmic structures and avant-garde practices with a sense of beauty and catchy melodies.
Here, Hinterlandt makes use of acoustic guitar as a quasi-percussion instrument, cello to hold the bottom end together with its heavy double stops, and two violins in question-and-answer conversations, not unlike a pair of witty sisters who finish each other’s sentences.
Angular, progressive semitone and tritone driven sections alternate with melodies that wouldn’t be out of place on experimental pop record. But then, this accessibility is offset by constantly shifting time signatures and harmonic progressions that keep listeners on their toes for the full 19 minutes of the EP.
In stark contrast to the popular ‘ambient neoclassical’ genre – which often comes off as a simplified throwback to late romantic-era classical music, mixed with post-rock sensibilities and gratuitous reverb – Hinterlandt combine intimate chamber music with densely layered, eclectic compositions. The result sounds something like a marriage of Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass and Meshuggah.
The term ‘Sollbruchstelle’ comes from German engineering, and describes a part of a machine or product that is designed to break under pressure. “What interests me about this concept is the fact that the part’s individual weakness is the greater machine’s strength,” explains Hinterlandt’s Jochen Gutsch.
‘Sollbruchstelle’ are placed carefully and deliberately to bear the brunt in a critical situation, thereby sparing the overall system. “Their weakness saves the lives of other parts that are considered more valuable”, Jochen adds. “There’s a beauty in that contradiction that relates well to our music, and I can see countless analogies to social issues of our times.”
With ‘Sollbruchstelle’, Jochen has applied more pressure to Hinterlandt’s music that ever before. Despite the dense, immediate nature of the compositions, they almost, but never quite, collapse under their own weight. A masterful achievement.
Hinterlandt’s ‘Sollbruchstelle’ is out now on Art As Catharsis.
The quartet launch their album in Sydney on 2 March at 107 in Redfern, where they are joined by Hashshashin and Peter Hollo’s raven.