On his own, Jonas Munk creates pulsating, repetitive music that blends the cosmic sounds of German electronic music from the 1970s with detuned guitar-drones and modern psychedelia. With Ulrich Schnauss he joins forces and blends some ambience, some occasional electronica-gaze and often some soundtrack majesty. Their sophomore long player 'Passage' is out now, and Jonas has shared some of the tales behind each track, and his own photos so you just have to look, listen and learn...
I love how this track sets a breezy tone for the album, right from the first note. I get the association to flickers of sunlight in spring, mild winds and a coastal atmosphere. There is beauty, but also a strong undertone of melancholia and 'saudade', which is something that goes for a lot of pieces on this record. I think that's why I think I find the album title, ”Passage” so fitting: there's beauty in the movement of life – going from one thing to the next – but at the same time there's a kind sadness connected to continously leaving things behind, and the transience of everything. The Japanese has an expression for this, that's very fitting: mono no aware.
Genau Wie Damals
The intro is the sonic equivalent of a clear blue sky in spring. Kinda reminds me of a lot of early 1990s British ambient music – which I guess is something of a rare reference these days. There's an old-school motorik drum machine beat throughout as well, adding a bit of krautrock vibe to the track and some Tom Verlaine-ish guitar parts. So it's definitely a totally weird mixed bag of sounds - which I love about it! Like a lot of the tracks on this record there's a feeling of moving from one place to another – the feeling of staring out the window while riding a train.
Anywhere But Here
Ulrich was super ill, and heavily drugged, when we recorded this one, which definitely adds to the somnabulist vibe of the piece! But it turned out to be one of the best pieces we've ever produced. I think it's one of those tracks where we're both doing what we do best, yet it doesn't really sound like anything either of us have done before. And there's a bit of a George Michael homage in the main synth sequence to boot!
This one of the more abstract pieces on the record. It certainly has a sun-drenched spring-vibe to it, but again with a certain bitterness to it. I love how there's actually quite a lot of musical progress happening throughout the track, even though it's actually taking place in less than two minutes.
This one started as a quite raw and minimal post-punk inspired track but gradually grew bigger and bigger in sound. At one point throughout the process of working on it I sent Ulrich a clip of the final scene of Breakfast Club – the one ending with Bender's fistpump – cause that's what this track feels like! It's one of the few moments on this record that has that sense of youthful euphoria – the feeling of a new beginning.
The title means ”blue sunrise” in Japanese, and that pretty much sums it up. Pure bliss. Like gently floating down a stream through a tranquil Asian landscape. It's new-agey as hell - in an un-ironic way - which, I guess is still one of the most insulting things one can do musically. One of the best tracks I've ever worked on.
This is by far the most upbeat track on the album, and in tone closer to the first album we did together. When we don't think too much about what's happening or where we wanna go, this is the direction we're naturally gravitating towards: new wave guitars and huge synth-lines.
One of the purely electronic moments on the record – no guitars for once. I came up with a simple sequence on an analog synth and Ulrich built some gorgeous digital harmonic lines around that, really opening everything up in a gorgeous way. It's always a challenge doing something so immensely ”cosmic” without falling into clichés, and I think this track succeeds in that regard.
I definitely consider this to one of the centerpieces on the album. Again, it's one of those moments where our individual strengths add up to something more. The morning before we started working on this one we listened to an old Detroit techno record as well as ”TNT” by Tortoise (one of my all time personal faves) over coffee - and both are audible in the final outcome. And there's that saudade again! It's airy, soft and savoury like a good South American coffee, but there's also that sense of wistfulness.
This is another track in new-age mode, although with a slightly darker twist this time. Sometimes it's interesting to throw away any compositional ambition and focus entirely on creating a sonic space, and that's what this is: a space to immerse yourself in for a brief while.
Like Genau Wie Damals this is a track that combines several elements that shouldn't work naturally in unison, but do: most notably minimal tech and Berlin-school synth sequences coupled with folky guitars. Ulrich deserves a lot of credit for this one, cause we recorded numerous layers without having any sense of compositional direction, and in the end Ulrich tied all of it together in a really inspired, ingenius way – adding structure to the entire thing. It feels oddly rural, while there's a kind of mechanical feel to it at the same time.
Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Munk - Passage is out now on Azure Vista Records HERE.