You'd expect sound engineers to make the best records. After all, they listen to music of every conceivable genre day in and day out, and have an encyclopedic knowledge of frequency spectrum, arrangements and how to draw the best sounds out of instruments and capture them on tape.
There is still the bias, however, against sound engineers (similar to music critics), that they are just failed musicians who couldn't cut it in a band. On Exit Straight Ahead, the debut EP from Cologne-based Spare Planet, head engineer and multi-instrumentalist Heiko Lohmann dispels that myth.
It all started when Lohmann and a friend constructed Hidden Track Studios, during 2012/13, which gave Lohmann the opportunity to start laying down instrumental tracks. The pieces started to fall in place when Lohmann ran into an old friend, Olga Polasik, of the recently deceased Sister Dew, and asked her to lay down some vocals.
Exit Straight Ahead could accurately be described as “ambient instrumental post-rock' (the band's own words), with the occasional foray into downbeat jazz territory (think Hooverphonic). This slight EP is built around chiming acoustic guitar arpeggios, which are then augmented with burning distortion and bilious clouds of delayed guitars, all riding on a silken foundation of lightly brushed jazz drums. Impressively, Lohmann plays nearly every instrument on Exit Straight Ahead himself, which suggests, should things not work out with his studio, he's got a promising career as a session musician ahead of him.
Exit Straight Ahead possesses a rare trait for a debut EP; a laid-back grace. Subtlety. Beauty. Maybe it's because Lohmann's already been in the biz for a while, and doesn't have as much to prove. Maybe it's because he waited a while to make his opening statement.
I'm glad he did. You don't find a delicate and nuanced debut such as this, all that often, which borders on the classical, with its intricate harmonies and layers of guitar textures. It's wide-eyed music for stargazing, for driving with the windows partially down. Perfect for the early, balmy days of summer.
This goes without saying, for all records, but listening to this music through tinny laptop speakers does it a disservice. Play through headphones or a good stereo, to get the full depth and warmth, to better appreciate the superb musicianship.
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