Do you remember Phalanx feat. The White Rabbit? Schattenspiel is their continuation with two new members and a less neoclassical-based musical style. The two new members are Iris Traumann, known from her electro-project of the same name, and Space Cat a.k.a. Seetha Rao from many projects, for example Frightnights Under Haunted Stars.
After the delicate and atmosprehic ambient intro with nature samples, "Sturmwarnung" comes up with it's deep and vast drums. After a while the song explodes with military and powerful drum work and choir vocals that are backed by some storm-like low sounds. The track's looped nature isn't too interesting in the long run, but it gets the listeners attention and sets the mood right for what is to follow. The follow-up track builds up from some really gentle piano work and a soft ambient pulse, with echoed male vocals on top (do note that the vocals are present only in four or so tracks). Some chiming and soft drumming give the track a kick every now and then to keep it going forward strongly. The three following songs are of similar style as the band's previous output, meaning that they're based on a minimal amount of mostly classical instuments executing somewhat repetitive, calm and even simplistic patterns in a very memorable, atmospheric and effective way. Even on these tracks it's very visible that the band has taken a turn for the more ambient-esque and delicate directions, and that they've found more ways to present the different atmospheres.
When reviewing the band's previous full-lenght, I complained that too many of the tracks followed the same formula, and that their electro-elements weren't imbued enough naturally to their output. This all has changed now; for example the eight minutes long "U-29" is formed around some submarine-sounds, other military samples and Sven Phalanx's strong male speaking, with just minimal, waving background ambience to give the track an even deeper mystical and even desolate feel - not much of the neoclassical elements are present. The band didn't do such bold experimentations before. The album uses these samples quite a lot, and in addition to deepening the album's atmosphere and giving the songs some interesting content, it also gives the album a good dose of cohesion even if (and when) the musical styles vary.
The album has quite a massive lenght, but somehow the artists have managed to make it work for them. The band relies quite a bit on minimal and slowly evolving ambient-esque soundscapes and delicate atmospheres, and they push the album forward without the listener even noticing it. Balancing these more peaceful parts there's a good dose of more dynamic, powerful and highly rhytmic moments with clearer instrumentation that lift up the record's atmosphere and keep the listener's attention tightly on the record. It all happens in a very natural way, and it's even surprising how pleasingly the one hour goes past.
As for negative aspects, it's clear that the band hasn't chosen or found it's exact style yet. There's quite some gap between some of the neoclassical-based tracks and tracks based on ambience and samples, but somehow this album manages to create a good flow between these two aspects. I would still hope for a more stabilized style, for it would help in creating even stronger and more overwhelming atmospheres; it would make the soundscape more unified, and thus easier to sink into. One other thing is the percussion programming: some of the rhythms sound unnatural and occasionally almost plastic, and even if this is a part of the genre I know that these things can and should be done with more care. Luckily the rhythms fit well to the songs, so this problem doesn't manage to create too much harm either. The band should find a more natural and harmonic balance between the organic and programmed instruments.
The band has a lot of daring and enthusiasm, and as they manage to refine their style and expression they're sure to conjure up something truly noteworthy. Even though this album is a bit lacking in cohesion, it more than makes up for it with it's strong material, good flow and strong, varying moods.