Send yourself on an adventure with the latest album from the German ambient popster
Cologne resident Jens-Uwe Beyer is a regular contributor to Kompakt’s annual ‘Pop Ambient’ series, a selection of left-field wonderfulness curated by Wolfgang Voigt. Beyer also records under the Popnoname monicker, exploring pop-house, tricky disco and spangled ambience in equal measure. ‘The Emissary’, though, is the first proper album he’s delivered under his own name and it’s a record that sees him branching further out into more esoteric musical realms.
The opening brace of tunes – ‘St Pop’ and ‘Hands’ – are somewhat misleading in terms of what to expect. The former is all jerky synths and baroque stabs, while the latter’s plaintive piano runs wouldn’t be out of place on a record by the late, great Susumu Yokota.
It’s not until we reach the third track, ‘It Started On A Wednesday’, that the sonic blueprint of ‘The Emissary’ is really laid out. There’s a bass pulse so deep you’d think Jacques Cousteau has served it up himself and some ghostly key whooshes that can only have been dreamt up in a flotation tank. It neatly segues into ‘Moonshine Tangerine’, where the pitter-patter of percussion sounds like a rainstorm threatening to blow up into a full-on monsoon, before the backwards guitar echoes of ‘Water Dancer’ conjure up an image of War On Drugs jamming with Philip Glass. This is music that’s about texture, feel and mood, where you feel Beyer is like some sort of puppet master, gently tugging the strings and letting the music go to work by itself.
The sense of mysticism continues into the second half, where ‘About Turn’ and the title track bathe in luxurious chord changes and there’s a faint rumble that promises surprise. A more accurate comparison may be with Texas drone kings Stars Of The Lid. There’s always a melody going on but lots of interesting sci-fi noise too – not so ambient that it could send you to sleep, not so angular that it would put you off your dinner. You can hear the complexity, rather like a Christopher Nolan film. You wouldn’t be out of line if you expected a fat Hans Zimmer organ stab to come crashing through and Leonardo DiCaprio’s spinning top to keep on spinning.
The album title is telling. An emissary is someone sent on a diplomatic or special mission. It needs to be an individual with powers of persuasion, impeccable timing and the ability to change people’s perceptions, yet all the while doing his or her best not to attract attention to themselves. This is Jens-Uwe Beyer in a nutshell, a consummate performer who’s comfortable operating in the shadows, happy to deliver his own strange cargo. You’re highly encouraged to sign for the package now.