Music critics too often create false dichotomies: experimental/classical, electronic/acoustic, avant-garde/experimental. These dualities don't realistically reflect most people's listening tendencies at this stage of the cultural explosion.
On his debut solo album, classically-trained cellist Augustine Esterhammer-Fic transcends these false boundaries to create an album equally indebted to classical music; forward-thinking indie rock, like Radiohead, The Books, or the weightless cello dubscapes of Arthur Russell; and avant-garde electronic styles, most notably the furious breakcore barrage of Venetian Snares or Squarepusher.
Esterhammer-Fic also breaks down the barrier between acoustic and electronic, as the multi-instrumentalist recorded the orchestral elements; cello, piano and glockenspiel, and then atomizes and reconfigures them in a software environment. The combination means that Nothing Is Hidden combines the warmth and expressiveness of instrumental performance with the precision and molecular control of modern software. The result, quite frankly, is stunning - freewheeling pinwheels of glistening harmonics tumble from heaven, like autumn leaves, while Esterhammer-Fic's cello rises like giant wings.
These dense and intricate arrangements serve as an underpinning for Esterhammer-Fic's lyrical meanderings, where he explores his interest in science and philosophy, thus the title. There is very little in the way of "pop structure" here - no sing-a-longs, no anthems. Instead, the lyrics frequently sound like pages ripped from some naturalist philosopher's notebook, which are then orchestrated by Shostakovich, to be remixed by Richard D. James.
Esterhammer-Fic's goal, with Nothing Is Hidden was to make something complex but accessible. To say this was successful would be an understatement, as Nothing Is Hidden is an out-of-the-ballpark-grand-slam of electronic artpop.
Augustine Esterhammer-Fic entirely recorded and arranged Nothing Is Hidden at home on his laptop extremely raising the bar for home-recording standards. The low end is rich, full, powerful and thudding, as can be seen on "Objects In Space,” with its incredibly satisfying, growling bass line, or on the depth-charge kick implosion on "In Wake (Cheyblinski).”
Nothing Is Hidden is a journey, starting off in the nebulous dream world of "I,” which serves as a mission statement and exposition for the album's central theme, to explode into tributaries of fluttering bricolage breakbeats in "Rotation Method (I Must Be Afraid Of Sex)" and 20th Century classical music of "In Wake (Cheyblinski)." For anyone who loves Arvo Part and Arovane in equal measure, prepare to become obsessed.
That being said, for those that look for catchy hooks and big melodies, this record may not be for you. The lyrics play out like Siddhartha's stream-of-consciousness, unlikely to be shouted along to in a packed dance club, while sipping Red Bull and vodka.
For those that like to dig below the surface, there are many gems to unearth and become obsessed by.
Astaggering debut, from an auspicious young composer.
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