Fine combination of synths and irresistible, dubby beats.
The remarkable thing about BELP’s new album is its two-dimensional function. It works both on a loud and a quiet volume. Some tracks would go down well as a club track, like opener ‘Travelling Thru Galaxies’. This track brings back memories of the best work released on the Hyperdub label, with its fine combination of synths and irresistible, dubby beats. Elsewhere, ‘Off Ending’ might start off as ‘dancehall-but-not-quite dancehall’ track but when half way the synths kick in they change the feeling of the track to a more cerebral level.
BELP is the artist name of Sebastian Schnitzenbaumer. Born in Munich, he partially grew up on the Seychelles islands off the coast of East Africa. Educated in classical piano, those two gravitational poles, European and African influences, form the basis for his musical development. Currently he has close ties to the (dub) Sausage Studio in Hackney, London. In his hometown Munich, the Bavarian capital, BELP took a central role in a series of discussions and events aiming to improve the image and possibilities of Munich, which to his regret is a predominantly posh and hedonistic city where optimistic and uplifting music take central role.
In different guises Schnitzenbaumer works as a much needed antidote. Since 2013 he runs the Schamoni label, focusing on supporting local artists like Leroy and Protein. Its sublabel Jahmoni is responsible for recent works by international artists like Aaron Spectre and DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess.
BELP’s music is dark, serious and layered. His love for dub and dancehall shines through in his broken beats. At the same time the synth layered tracks give the album an atmospheric feeling.
This also is what makes this album essential: it’s refusal to be pigeonholed. The last track on side A, ‘By Beauteous Softness’, is an a cappella rendition of a 17th century Henry Purcell piece, beautifully sung by Alexander Schneider. This track is preceded by ‘Transmission’, which is a brilliant abstract work, sounding like wind closing on you from all sides. And you can sip a cocktail whilst listening to the jazzy ‘Time And Again’ (BELP once worked as a jazz pianist).
It’s clear to hear BELP took a long time recording this album. Every note, synth, drum beat, is carefully placed. But what the album might lack on spontaneity it more than compensates this with its sheer musical beauty. This also reflects on the abstract sleeve, like ‘Elephants’ designed by BELP himself.
Enjoy this album on big speakers, as background music or simply on headphones. There will always be new sounds and layers to be discovered!