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In the electronic music scene, it’s now commonplace for artists to put out remix compilations of their work regularly. These usually involve a bunch of cash-cow remixes for heavyweight artists that pale in comparison to the producer’s usual production standards. Over the past decade, artists such as Sia, Depeche Mode and Coldplay have all turned to the German-based Ulrich Schnauss to help transform their tunes into the richly layered sonic soundscapes he’s best known for. But on his recently released Missing Deadlines – Selected Remixes compilation, Ulrich has eschewed the heavy-hitters and selected the songs that simply meant the most to him.
“To be quite honest with you, I wasn’t keen on the idea of doing a remix album for a long time but I thought if I’m going to do it, then it should be the ones that I really love,” Ulrich told me when we spoke with him on the day of the release.
These are my personal favorites rather than a compilation of the biggest names and tracks from a commercial point of view. The ones that ended up on the album are my definitive favorites from over the years.
While there’s nobody on the album near as big as Coldplay or Depeche Mode, the tracks that Ulrich has selected from his vast body of remix work are all full of the rich emotional content that can be found on his solo albums. Here he has helped reshape the sounds of some indie-rock, singer-songwriters and experimental artists that make up bulk of the tracks found on Missing Deadlines.
“I don’t think I’m too fussy when it comes to choosing what song to remix,” Ulrich explained. “I try to remix artists and songs that I like. What always helps is when you work with music that is songwriting-based because then you can focus on doing an alternative arrangement and on the sonics without changing too much harmonically or melodically. I think that’s what I really enjoy most about remixing.”
“Probably the best mix I’ve ever done is the opening mix on the album, ‘Setting Sun,’ by the Howling Bells because I think it worked very well to cross such different elements in that mix.”
He then added, “They do stuff that’s completely different from what I do but the end result was a combination of our two styles that probably neither of us on our own would have come up with, so I think that one came out particularly well.”
Ulrich’s music has always been ever-evolving, from his drum and bass days in the Nineties under his Ethereal 77 guise to his critically-acclaimed, ambient-driven solo work. No matter the genre, he always infuses each piece of music with memorable melodies and endless emotional content.
When I started this project about ten years ago, my feeling was that a lot of electronic music was very good in terms of creating interesting sonics but very few people tried to match that with more traditional songwriting element and that just seemed to me a good idea to combine these two approaches.
His now-classic albums Far Away Trains Passing By, A Strangely Isolated Place and his most recent, Goodbye in 2007, all featured Ulrich producing the kind of music that great late-night headphone listening is all about. However, in the years since the release of Goodbye, much has been speculated as to whether Ulrich might move away from his now trademark sounds.
“I’m actually working on a new record at the moment,” he revealed. “It’s still going to be an Ulrich Schnauss album, but it’s definitely going to change a bit. With that whole idea of trying to come up with an electronic interpretation of the Shoegaze sound, I’ve reached a level where I wouldn’t know where to take it next. I think I was a little in danger of starting to repeat myself and becoming bored with it and luckily at the same time, I started to fall in love with the more electronic sounds and that’s something I want to explore on the next album, which I’m about half-way finished with and looking to complete by this summer.”
He added, “I think it’s definitely a departure to a degree but at the same time it will still sound like something I’ve done in a lot of ways too.”
Not only does Ulrich have a new album on the horizon but he’s also finishing up his first film score, while also working on an ambient album with one of my favorite singers, Kirsty Hawkshaw, who has previously collaborated with the likes of BT and Way Out West.
“She wrote all the songs and I’m just providing the electronic arrangements,” said Ulrich. “It’s definitely more on the ambient and emotional side of things. So probably not too many floor-fillers on that one.”
“But I think the idea for me was because I thought that Kirsty didn’t get quite the recognition in this field that she’s deserved to get. I think a lot of people just saw her as a dance or trance diva but she did a couple of amazing solo records. I really liked her first one which she did with Mark Pritchard from Global Communications, so the idea for our record was basically to come up with a sequel of sorts to that.”
Ulrich has always been a fan of the ambient works of pioneers like Global Communication and much like their material, the Schnauss soundscapes are very cinematic and create an imaginary movie for the mind.
That’s one of the advantages of instrumental music is that generally that you’ve got a lot of space to make up your own images and ideas of what something communicates emotionally rather than having someone singing to you what you have to think.
“But it really all stems from the way I grew up in Germany. I had a bit of a rough childhood and there was a lot of violence around and lots of dark stuff,” he further explained. “Music was a great way for me to escape. It’s a great way to get away for a couple of minutes. If it works that way for other people and gives them that place of refuge, that’s great and the whole ambition of the project to me. You can reload your battery and get to a place where you can cope with what’s going on again.”
We have no doubt that your battery will be overflowing by the time you’ve finished listening to Missing Deadlines. The magic found within the music that Ulrich Schnauss makes is that rare type of electronic music that can move past sheer sonics because at its heart is endless emotion that stems from the passion with which it was produced.
The music on Missing Deadlines is a fantastic snapshot of an innovative artist at his best. So grab those headphones and set aside some time to get to know the ethereal sounds of Ulrich Schnauss!
Surf: Ulrich Schnauss
Buy: Missing Deadlines
Ulrich Schnauss’s Sinning In LA Mix Tracklist
01 w/trem: low pressure area
02 noumena: yours
03 martin todsharow: hanna’s longing
04 jerome froese: at marianas trench
05 lush: astronaut
06 david sylvian: silver moon over sleeping steeples
07 faith over reason: lullaby (mother love)
08 ashra: kazoo
09 psycho plasma: lhasa
10 propaganda: la carne, la morte e il diavolo
11 alec empire: shivers
12 zavoloka: rankova (midnight edit)
13 david sylvian: come morning
14 yellow magic orchestra: the city of light (ambient)
15 mark van hoen: soyuz a
16 tangerine dream: smile (instrumental)