F.S. Blum – Zweite Meer

F.S. Blum
Zweite Meer

When iTunes loads up F.S. Blum’s new full-length, Zweite Meer, the normally innocuous “Genre” column reads “Electronica.” Which is kind of funny, because if Zweite Meer is electronica, then we’ve officially come full circle. Artists like Caribou (Manitoba), Christian Fennesz, and Mum have been incorporating live instruments into their chops and beats for years now, but Blum’s new full-length is full of slow-burn psychedelic pillows, incorporating nylon-string guitars, chimes, string sections, and a number of other instruments that rock critics like to refer to as “organic” when used in the context of electronic music. But Blum’s not electronic – he has loose connections to the electronic world (Zweite Meer is on Morr records) – he just hustles its constantly changing song structures, its attention to detail, and its loose, orchestrated beauty.

Of course, the reactionary stance on Zweite Meer is that it doesn’t sound like much of anything, save for background music. You know – great for studying, but who gets into music that’s great for studying? It’s strange to listen to something 10+ times and not be able to differentiate the tracks. And, no doubt, this is Blum’s biggest drawback – the tracks all sound same-y (only the last song, “Nachhall/Chroma Key” contains vocals), and they fade into whatever you’re up to.

Blum’s best attribute, however, is brevity. Only two of the 12 tracks on Zweite Meer break the four-minute barrier. Whereas lesser artists might try to drag these melodic instrumentals out, Blum has a valuable feel for when to move on. Take, for instance, the swaying organs on, “Bitt” – they’re exceedingly pretty, warm, and vibrant, but more than anything, they stop before they get tired, providing a nice segue into the percussive arpeggios of “Lunten.”

The most captivating track on the album is the buoyant “Nah,” a quiet guitar piece until a bluegrass-y, finger-picked banjo interrupts midway through and carries the song to an eerie, percussive finish. The aforementioned final track follows, and while Blum’s voice is soft and emotive, the lyrics render the song practically unlistenable (see the line, “We need a fella / Insert Nelson Mandela / Ask for an autograph”).

The rest of the disc is, as mentioned before, very similar to the tracks named above. Every once in a while, something will surprise you – like the sighing flutes that open “Langen” – but the surprises are never jarring, just subtly soothing. The list of “natural events” (you know, sunsets, full moons, light rains) that this sort of music should soundtrack would be long, trite, and boring. But it would not be fabricated. Blum has created a layered, sensuous work here, and he should be applauded, even if it occasionally falls into the background.