Album review: Level π - Elektronische Philosophie (2020)
Cologne-based Uwe Cremer has been releasing music under the name Level π since 2006, using the same instrumentation as the disparate groups of German musical pioneers from the 70s to create musical stories and sound sculptures – Moog, Mellotron, organ, string synthesizer, guitar, electronic sounds and effects, all driven along by sequencer rhythms. ELEKTRONISCHE PHILOSOPHIE is his fifth album, released towards the end of 2020, where the stories take on the form of different journeys: the night train; an intergalactic journey; time travel; the inner journey.
NACHTFAHRT (NIGHT TRIP) was the first piece of music I heard from Level π. It is slow stately Berlin school electronica which Cremer has described as a night ride on the Trans-Europ Express where the passing of kilometres is represented by a steady Moog bass line, drums and sequencer, and the oncoming dawn is heralded by a string synthesizer melody line. The mention of ‘Trans-Europ Express’ mustn’t allow you to think of Kraftwerk, it’s much closer to Tangerine Dream territory. The accompanying video footage depicts a far less glamorous train journey – the slow regional evening commute – which provides an entirely suitable backdrop to the music.
DIE LANGE REISE (THE LONG JOURNEY) is more like industrial space rock, where the developing rhythm creates a trippy groove which gets more intense when more instruments are added. The select use of quotations from American horror/sci-fi movies from the 50s and 60s adds to Cremer’s vision of an interplanetary or intergalactic journey, where the beat sounds like the throb of a spaceship engine.
INTERMEZZO is a short jazz/blues piece unlike anything else on the album, beginning with acoustic bass and clean blues guitar, which means it’s a perfect description of itself. An ascending guitar and piano run halfway through the track signals the addition of effects to the guitar, setting the scene for ELEKTRONISCHE PHILOSOPHIE (ELECTRONIC PHILOSOPHY) which commences with an abstract electronic soundscape before a rhythmical sequencer arpeggio sets out the backing for a string synthesizer melody which could have been played by Jean-Michel Jarre. A cross-fade version of INTERMEZZO/ELEKTRONISCHE PHILOSOPHIE is included as a bonus track.
DON QUIJOTES GEHIM (DON QUIXOTE’S BRAIN) features trippy effect-laden guitar, some of which is quite Edgar Froese-like, mainly played at a languid pace but some, reflecting the song title, hints at Spanish guitar. The piece was inspired by Terry Gilliam’s 2018 film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, where the different visions of the eponymous hero are represented by the subsections making up the track.
ZU HAUSE (AT HOME) makes great use of the electric piano, with a chord progression charting out the melody line. Together with understated wah-wah blues guitar and overdriven organ chords, this gives the top line a Pink Floyd-like feel. However, the trip-hop beat, which is augmented by sequencer, gives it a distinct Bristol twist.
DURCH DIE JAHRZEHNTE (THROUGH THE DECADES) uses a more complex sequencer motif, and the introduction of church organ reminds me of classic mid-70’s Klaus Schulze albums. The slow, stately guitar solo at the end of the piece is backed by another trip-hop inspired part, so the instrumentation and sonic design moves forward through the song.
The album covers a wide range of Kosmische musik but extends beyond the form, with Cremer employing the ‘journey’ concept to take us deep into his electronica-driven universe.