Oceanic by Niklas Paschburg

Release date: February 23, 2018
Label: 7K!

The ranks of musicians working in the field that borders ambient, beat electronic and classical music are swelling by the day. Think of the names like Peter Broderick, Hauschka, Nils Frahm, among about the currently more established. Based on his debut album Oceanic, you can easily add the name of Hamburg composer/musician Niklas Paschburg.

Like any of the three names, excluding Broderick who also works with vocals, or quite a number of musicians straddling these three musical fields, Paschburg combines classical-tinged piano sounds with ambient soundscapes and field recordings and you can call them ‘standard’ electronic beats to try to conjure certain musical images. In this case, Pachberg, whose home recording studio overlooks the Baltic sea,  obviously had no problem finding inspiration in a marine theme.

The first thing you notice is that Pachberg definitely has a fine sense of classical composition and approach to his piano playing, evident in some of the initial tracks on the album like ‘Spark’  and ’Sand Whirling’. On Oceanic, whenever his compositions are piano-dominated, they simply sparkle and shine. No problem when he introduces subtle electronic effects and backbeats either, like on ‘Anew’ or ‘Journey Between Worlds’. The latter is particularly effective with it electronically added effects and subtle beats that pick up midway through the composition.

As with any music that tries to make a similar genre combination, there is always an inherent danger that it will veer towards the dreaded kitch sounds connected with the much-maligned New Age. While whether New Age itself deserves so much flak is another debate, but very often it does sound like a musical equivalent of a cup of tea with more than five or six spoons of sugar.

Luckily, Paschburg escapes such that trap. Well, at least most of the time. The problem, albeit briefly arises when he tries to add too much beat to his compositions (like on the title track), but he is quickly able to escape the traps he sets himself by either moving away or adding another electronic element that steers the music away from being pedestrian.

Taken as a whole, Oceanic is a fine effort, particularly since it is a debut in a musical genre that is getting a bit overcrowded these days.

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