A veteran of the German deep house scene, Henrik Schwarz is responsible for some of the most elegant dance records of the 2000s. Bringing a signature jazzy ambience to the genre, he accrued over 100 releases and remixes for both major and indie labels, and set dancefloors alight the world over.
Transcending the boundaries that constrain many of his peers, in 2010 Schwarz started collaborating with classical and jazz musicians, trading techno clubs for concert halls. Piano and computer sat side by side in his nu jazz album Duo, made with Norwegian jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft. Together with the Berlin State Ballet, meanwhile, Schwarz composed and produced a 30-minute score for a ballet production, Masse, which premiered at Berlin’s famed Berghain club.
In 2015, Schwarz invited the four players of the Alma String Quartet – an award-winning Dutch ensemble who share his proclivity for the unconventional – to his studio in Berlin. They began a series of improvisations whereby Schwarz would suggest a musical phrase, and one of the Quartet would play in response, before taking up another idea; highly trained classical musicians recording like a jazz band. Schwarz recorded, replayed and responded to Alma’s classical phrases with electronic production, before sculpting the recorded output into coherent tracks.
The project has sold out concerts around the globe, but has never been brought to the UK – until now.
The result was CCMYK3, a record characterised by graceful tension and piercing melancholy, in which masterful string performances combine with subtle electronics and experimental production techniques. Its evocative pieces at times lean into Reichian minimalism. At others they sound like classical versions of unheard minimal techno tracks. Dynamic, driving cuts like ‘CCMYK3’ sound almost ready for the club, while ‘Happy Hipster’ skips along with a Spring-like verve – a big tonal shift, and yet Schwarz’ sensitivity to structure means it all adds up to one compelling listening experience.
The project has sold out concerts around the globe, but has never been brought to the UK – until now. Playing only London’s Jazz Café and Manchester’s excellent new venue The Blues Kitchen, this is a rare chance to glimpse the alternative sonic universe that Henrik and Alma have forged. Don’t miss it.