Martin Fuhs






Three years. That's the timespan it took Martin Fuhs to create his first solo album Grauton (shade of gray) after a former detour with the collective Seconds In Formaldehyde. The album, however, is devoid of any aesthetic concept of time. Self-released in February 2013 and available to purchase and listen to in full at Bandcamp, Grauton gathers a whopping 17 vignettes of hazy drones, piano arrangements and Glitch-influenced molecules. Since the artist is living close to Frankfurt, Germany, I am sure he can tell you a thing or two about the autumnal apex and the following gray winters with less days of sunshine and blue skies than lanthanides in a mad scientist's Erlenmeyer flask. I can relate to those gloomier weather conditions. Sound-wise though, Fuhs decides to do something beautiful: he transfigures and poeticizes the several states, tinges and shades of dull grayness, there is not one single take that scares the listener or ventures into darker parts, let alone draws from an electrifying beat stratum. Everything flows, floats and funnels in constant fluxion, and while Grauton is more of a thermal than an aqueous album, there are moments of moisture, soothing seepage and pristine purification without ever crossing the paths to the New age genre. The sound waves orbit between fragile dioramas and densely stratified coatings, melodies hardly ever journey beyond the five-note mark, as everything is laid-back. The album is similar to the soundscapes of Chris Herbert, Marcus Fischer and Jan Jelinek, especially the latter artist's works he created around the millennium are based on equipollent auras: warmth and friendliness. Both markers do never lead to euphoria rather than a form of independence from the listener; he or she might join – i.e. listen closely to – the fun, but is not cordially invited via hooks and riffs, but either has to work through the swirling ambience or decide to drift. As a reviewer, I tend to embody the status of a working writer. Rest assured, however, that Grauton makes it incredibly hard to not feel afloat and eminently relaxed. This article is based on a copy of Grauton Martin Fuhs sent me for review purposes.


The eponymous opener Grauton showcases the endemic nuances, patterns and – quite literally – different shades of gray Martin Fuhs injects in each of his arrangements. Right from the get-go, the granular synth susurration comprises entangled accentuations of peacefulness, crevasse-perturbed airflows and even an opaque exuberance. Grauton drifts like a hibernal mirage, admixing infinitesimally dark undertones to the languorous stream of silkiness. The only towering protuberance consists of an Oval-esque jitter burst, its lucency breaking the circumambient vortex for a short moment with its guitar-based acidity. The opener is one track in a string of 16 others, but the balmy mellifluousness serves as an important marker of gentleness that is fittingly absorbed by Blickdicht (opaque), but transformed into a coruscating luminescence full of star dust glitters, moony reverb-fueled piano tones, ebbing and flowing gusts of tape hiss as well as wave-like fizzles. The structure of this arrangement is decidedly fissured, decay and sustain of each particle are given room to breathe and whirr, the feeling can be described as a well-attenuated bliss. The following Lichtblick (glimmer of light), however, is unexpectedly swallowed by the ubiquitous grayness due to its adamantly limewashed static noise drones in the veins of Thomas Köner. What this tune lacks in pellucidness, it achieves in the interplay of its coatings. At high volume levels, Lichtblick unveils distant phantom-gamelan chimes and spectral whistles. With just a tad over two minutes, this track is way too short to create a zone-out atmosphere. This one could have gone on for a longer time.


Luckily, Galant stays in exactly the same slick realm of rectilinealism, offering a creek of genteel noise washes, but with an acroamatic yet cozy synth aorta in place. This particular fusion of melodic traces and pink noise works even better, making Galant a proper Drone track. While the svelte Grazil is a fog-coated piano arrangement of five notes that unites its cerebral ricketiness with the contemplative kind of isolation, the bass-driven dryness of Puls is a misstep to my mind; it entangles warmth with beautifully scintillating sparks and reversed plinking slivers, but there is anything gray about it, the misty moisture is completely amiss. It is the task of Flimmern (flickering) to reinforce the nostalgia with the help of purposefully Lo-Fi piano chords in adjacency to a whisper-quiet oscillating synth placenta. Minimalism and relief are in unison. Körnung (granulation) is a specifically important track that widens the overarching theme of Grauton, for it is less keen on fragility and more in favor of positively overexposed synth streams with spiraling micro-flecks, haze hues and a detached second half that changes the timbre with a magnanimous cornucopia of thickness. I do not embrace the stark dualism of this track, as Martin Fuhs unnecessarily expands the already polylayered eclecticism and richness of his presented material, but the surface of the textures is most enchanting! The surprisingly progressive Partikel then readopts Körnung’s density and unites it with shape-shifting states of electric current buzzes, camouflaged piano spirals, radio frequencies and hectically gyrating vesicles. The Glitch genre has reached Fuhs' intrinsic Dronescape.


Up next is the gelid Schimmer (gleam), supercharged with blue-tinged runlets of portentous drones and meandering tone sequences whose stretched state interpolates the dissonances, a characteristic trait that was heretofore untraceable on the album. Whereas Durchsicht (inspection) is another frosty vignette that is nonetheless warmer due to the gorgeously vibrant dew drops, crystalline driblets and mesmeric backing synths, Blendung (glare) is a Drone track of the Pop Ambient kind with an emphasize on sumptuous layers, microscopic shifts and a concentration on the textures rather than convoluted melodies; Triola’s Dunkelkammer comes to mind. During the next couple of minutes of Radius, the German artist fathoms out the phenomenon of lingering sound in a less convincing way, launching the track with a gentle fade-in of a splendidly golden-shimmering synth monotony full of sparkling glitters before this state is then sloooowly fading away for more than two minutes. Silence and coldness are taking over, the warmth of the glowing sounds wanes and vanishes, but then again, the duration of its ensuing decrease is far too long. Radius would have worked far better as a closing track. Schnittmenge (intersection) then presents a dichotomously wistful-snugly piano arrangement à la Sensorama’s Aspirin before Sättigung (saturation) lives up to its name and re-enters the Pop Ambient realms with its multifaceted, largely bolstered ethereality that is chock-full of elysian synth structures and mellow sine pulses, creating a maximally celestial feeling. Despite the lack of melodies, euphony is all over Sättigung. A gargantuan addition! The penultimate Perlig (beaded) presents a beatless piece akin to the Detroit school of production values with a hazy languor of diffuse glitters and that certain depth, gravity and independence which Jan Jelinek’s debut album Personal Rock (1999) under his pseudonym Gramm unchains so efficiently to this day. Finally, the apotheosis called Sepia is the last-ditch presentation of a piano arrangement whose sustained tones create comfy figments of nostalgia and profoundness. Loftiness and ponderousness are unified, the grayness remains the driving force in the album’s closing phase, regardless of the track title.


Granular haze or hazy granularity? These assertions, while clearly congruent and cross-pollinating, are two possible descriptions in regard to Martin Fuhs' Grauton. Another catch phrase would be "lavish wealth"  which aptly carries a positive and negative connotation, and this is exactly where this album resides. The textures are incredibly becalming and soothing, the layers induce multiple states and timbres of grayness, but regardless of the phase a track is currently in, the result is incessantly uplifting, benign and debonair. All these adjectives are usually connected to vivacious colors or flamboyant hooks, but not here where subtlety wins big time, be it in the form of gentle splutters, blurred static noise, misty moirés, forlorn piano tones or poppier infusions. Every arrangement is a mélange of warmth, even the frostier incarnations. The sound-related balance is skillfully maintained as well, and I for one am glad that the piano is not featured overly prominently. I love Modern Classical and electro-acoustic works, but the implicit statement as advected by the opener is that of a synth-heavy album. And synths we shall receive, Grauton is enormously enthralling, crazily captivating and definitely demanding. Wait a second… demanding? Didn't I mention the verisimilitude to be swept away by its shimmering beauty? Indeed I did, but Grauton demands something else: patience and time. Since it is charged with 17 tracks, all of them destillates that were won over a span of three long years, I have to wonder whether Martin Fuhs could not have shortened the album a bit. His wealth of ideas would have formed other artist's bases for three to four albums! I would have loved if the talented sound engineer either cut out six or seven tracks and would then have, as some sort of a barter, prolonged and stretched the remainders to durations east of the five minutes range. Apparitions like Lichtblick, Blendung and Sättigung literally beg for longer runtimes. And I agree. I want to bathe in their transcendence. But they are too short. Everything feels too short due to the digital limits of the classical album format. The wealth of unleashed material is thus potentially tiresome, this time in the negative sense, a feeling I also encountered with the latest, astonishingly more melodious works of Autechre such as Quaristice (2008) and Exai (2013). Without getting all too witty here, such complaints can formidably fade to gray… if the listener is willed to enjoy – or actually embrace – a disproportionally and willfully fragmented work. Grauton is this cohesive kaleidoscope.



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Ambient Review 194: Martin Fuhs – Grauton (2013). Originally published on Mar. 13, 2013 at