Martin Kohlstedt

(Edition Kohlstedt / Warner Classics)


If you are as skilled at something as Martin Kohlstedt is at composing and playing classical piano music, then you could be forgiven for never doing anything else. But with Feld, Kohlstedt demonstrates that his ambition far outstrips any such conservatism, opting to allow his experiments with electronic production force his primary instrument into second place. 

In direct contrast to his last LP Flur, his most bare-boned piano record to date, Feld is defined by shimmering, textured and often hostile vistas of synthesised sound, with piano keys introduced to add natural warmth to counterbalance the chilly, reflective sheen of the electronics. On ‘LUV’, Kohlstedt creates an external world, desolate and uncertain, a gentle digital breeze rattling its wind chimes and creaking its loose branches. Fragments of melody occasionally threaten to coalesce, but they are mostly kept on ice, the ambient pacing constraining the track from any traditional songwriting structure.

‘DIN’ begins with funereal keys that channel an almost organ-like incantation, but a synth beat catalyses the track, summoning Feld into life, the sound akin to an oncoming marching band. The threat is eventually averted, and the menace passes over the hill to hassle some other composer. 

‘DIA’, similarly, is driven by an urgent, pulsing beat, the sort you might hear as an action movie starts to build to its blowoff street chase, whereas on ‘MOD’, taps of keys seem to represent falling raindrops, while the settled atmospherics are periodically invaded by bolts of static interference. ‘NOR’ depicts what could be a single bud blooming on a frost-covered vine, with a biting sheet of synth blowing through the track’s vast, empty space, underscored by field recordings of chirping cicadas and distant birdsong.

On the rare tracks where the piano is allowed centre stage, as on ‘SJO’, it is still haunted by a spectral, sighing synth line in the background that rings out like the echo of a forgotten voice. Kohlstedt’s playing here is nervous and worried, invoking the kind of blend of fear and wonder that you might expect from harp strings. On ‘VIM’, however, is freer and more hopeful, the keys now working in harmony with the synths, joining together for a surging, regenerative climax. 

Feld is commendably free from narcissism throughout, with Kohlstedt voluntarily redirecting the limelight away from his signature, established skillset, and proving that he has so much more to offer.