I believe that Earlyguard has never been so delighted about self-releasing his music and mixing every step on his own. The man behind the moniker, Tom Frühwacht from Germany, has dedicated his craftsmanship as a multi-instrumentalist and composer to creating long-form pieces that regularly cross the threshold to 30 minutes and beyond. Not that big of a deal, I say to myself, as these arrangements of philosphical fallacies and abstract concepts are insular entities in lieu of tributaries. Earlyguard approximately releases one track every four months or so, and this schedule allows for absorption and immersion even in hectic times. In 2015, he told me that there will be less works than usual – and they’re packaged quite differently too.


Imagine a label that would be willed to release a work of 140+ minutes: Nachtgedanken would be that very work I’m talking about. Roughly translatable into nocturnal thoughts or nightly musings and self-released in January 2015 in a digital-only version, Earlyguard has released one giant of a three-track album. A label that would physically release this work then needed to spread it over at least two discs… or dedicate a single disc to every one of Nachtgedanken’s movements for aesthetic reasons. Unfortunately, the future looks even cloudier as I'm writing these lines, as Earlyguard has – hopefully temporarily – deactivated his Bandcamp account until the EU-imposed VAT regulations regarding digital goods/artworks are properly cleared. In the meantime, the album is available on Amazon MP3, iTunes and other big online stores. Be that as it may, the ever-important interim stage of sound, sustain and silence is worshipped again. An elasticized music box, vibraphone or related metallic mallet instrument – maybe even a cleverly camouflaged synthetic version thereof – makes up the majority of Nachtgedanken’s runtime. Naturally, a piano is embedded as well. Spectrally oscillating and clandestinely coruscating, these electro-acoustic sinews provide the trenchantly nocturnal reticulation and gyre around both high-chromaticity and softly glaucous patterns of aural colors. Here is a meticulous look at the album’s mystical aura and potentially soul-absorbing existence.


Is it the convoluted afterglow of an alto flute amidst the pluvial piano drops? Whatever the actual source, the first texture is almost completely ostracized during the magnanimous runtime of Nachtgedanken Teil 1. Clocking in at 44 minutes, the mood remains enigmatic until the last note is played. Fluttering oscillations, incidental AM radio frequencies and glacial glitters intermix into a palely viridian node of hoarfrost. The wideness, meanwhile, is astounding: since Frühwacht doesn’t go all-in regarding an adamantly immersive array of sumptuous layers, the inaugural part of the triptych tends to worship the various electro-acoustic surfaces even to their endmost state on the one hand, true, but on the other hand carves out the peritoneum of nothingness around the frequencies. Its omnipresence augments the occasional – and purposeful – contretemps of discordant keys and scrimshaw ornaments. In its most annealed state, Nachtgedanken Teil 1 is an anhydride, not completely desiccate, but undoubtedly frosted. The ubiquity of the helical wisps translates into a fully functioning mind though, resulting in a concoction of elasticized chime layers, sustained decay debasements and cautiously glitchy caproic acids that is rearranged and reiterated until the final segment evokes an amethystine legato cascade; an ephemeral void back into Earlyguard’s synth-focused work phase?


Nachtgedanken Teil 2 comprises of aesthetics that are even sterner in maintaining their withdrawn state. The piano is in the center, and even if there are times when only one note arises every 30 seconds or so, it is the entrapped sustain of the vibrant key that remains as present a force. The synth-oid quilting of blips and dots is wonderfully cajoling in a – certainly twisted – way and reminds of clarinetist Tony Scott’s electro-acoustic experiment Voyage Into A Black Hole (1988); Golden Prophet Of The 21st Century off that LP comes to mind in particular, a trip of 30+ coherent minutes that are much more synthetic and spacial than the pendant that is Nachtgedanken. Yet, Earlyguard’s centered longform piece of 45 minutes is actually semi-connected to the Space Ambient genre due to the timbre of the serrated dots, but one intendedly staggering element prevents the pondering subject from fully succumbing to the alluring thiazide of these polyfoil molecules: the piano, as expected. It remains the earthbound unit in this otherworldly cocktail of recondite albumin and agglutinated stardust jitters. Whenever there is the danger of drifting into the fibrillar ether, the bone-crushing oomph of an eruptive key functions as the red flag or wakeup call. The latter term is the more unfortunate one, as the mind is fully awake, albeit not necessarily aware of what’s real or surreal.


Nachtgedanken Teil 3 is the majestic conclusion, and while a triptych’s final entity feels often lachrymose – or worse: like an afterthought – when a work of art winds down, Tom Frühwacht wants to prevent this from happening without annihilating the thoughtful amalgamation that was presented heretofore. The seemingly easiest way is to prolong the duration of the respective part even further; now we’re at 52+ minutes and in territories of patient unfolding and thoughtful realization perfectly known to Earlyguard. The third part is therefore not superfluous at all, especially not in the given prospect of cautious and hopefully not accidental harmonies in major. For the first time, a few of the chords are quite vernal compared to the endemic aura, and one doesn’t need to wait long: around the two-minute mark is the first absconded marker of vivacity. Make no mistake though, these blazing synapses are in here for a reason, as they only amplify the crestfallen photometry of the depicted individual. If there is one uplifting chord, there must be another, and now one is trapped in the vicious circle known to Glitch fans: the wait for a beautiful analog texture or harmonious interstice amid the wave of clicks and prongs is the real exciting part of the experience. Whether that is the case in Nachtgedanken Teil 3 depends on the listener, as it should be. In tandem with even colder and more legatofied dark matter coruscations, the endpoint is as opaque and devious an aural cogitation as the previous parts.


Flashback: Earlyguard’s synth-oriented longform piece Isolation (2013) relied on the uneasiest force to reckon with, the listener him- or herself, or in the greater scheme of things: mankind in general. Its wind gusts and synth cross-linkage however turned into a bellicose absorption that is different from 2015’s Nachtgedanken, and Tom Frühwacht has certainly come a long way. What, then, is the nemesis of Nachtgedanken? It is yet again the thinking mind and its unrest: thoughts become nagging, nagging thoughts become indentations, indentations burn bridges – you get the picture – until a largely depressed individual is left to his own devices. Perversely enough, these devices are conglomerations of thoughts as well… an internecine loop! This is not to say that Earlyguard’s pompous suite crushes the mood, let alone destroys the innocent bystander and the whole being. In the right moment and surrounding, obviously at night, Nachtgedanken unravels its intrinsic DNA and enthralls. Like snowflakes in a windy environment, the profusions and atoms spiral, shuttle, gyre and ultimately prosper. Earlyguard doesn’t create soothing Ambient music by means of thickly wadded harmonies. While clearly accessible – no matter the various different meanings of accessibility in music – and open to scrutiny, the actual nucleus is otherwise deeply hidden and depends on the cooperation of the listener. One needs time, patience, a compatible locale and a stable mind in a loose sense of the term. Then Nachtgedanken unlocks the catenae and provides a nutritious incandescence to an upcoming night’s work.


Further listening and reading:

  • Nachtgedanken is available to stream (at least partially so) and purchase at Amazon MP3, iTunes and –once the EU-related VAT turmoil has been cleared – Bandcamp soon. One day, we'll laugh about their misstep. You'll see. 
  • Earlyguard is on Twitter: @Earlyguard.


Ambient Review 405: Earlyguard – Nachtgedanken (2015). Originally published on Jan. 7, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.