Zazie Von Einem Anderen Stern: "Nacht"
By George Bass | 27 September 2010
Neoclassical music has been enjoying some time in the limelight recently (in fact, if you take off the “neo” part, it’s been enjoying it since 1750), and while composers like Peter Broderick and Indignant Senility have kept orchestras busy in Portland, there hasn’t been much of response from the continent. OK, Peter Broderick might have moved there after he’d finished taking bows for Float (2008), but on the whole Europe’s neoclassical profile is a little more elitist, a little more “look at us, we’re as serious as Beethoven.”
That all stops in a couple of weeks when Germany’s Maike Matern goes public, descending onto stage like Björk in a ball-gown with her debut as Zazie Von Einem Anderen Stern (or “Zazie from a different star” for those without access to Babelfish). Matern sees herself as a little astrological—her press sheet even mentions her home studio is south-facing—and, in between remembering her childhood listening to Pappa play klavier, she likes to stare out over the skies of Berlin, stargazing like neighbour Peter Broderick. Luckily, though, Zazie responds as well to the stellar twinkliness as he does: both are child prodigies who rebelled using piano, both break up their lush compositions with samples from the city around them. And as any classical conductor will tell you, it takes balls to try and orchestrate a four-lane orbital road system. Balls and a knowledge of the electrical grid.
Balls apart, the difference between Broderick and Maike Zazie Matern is that, while Broderick is a youngster who can furrow his brow like Chopin, Zazie seems to be more comfortable with her youth, even incorporating the odd trace of pop into her music. On “Nacht,” the second track from debut album Regen:Tropfen (“rain:drops”), synth chimes lifted from Cannibal Ox’s “Iron Galaxy” play over the sound of sliding panels. Perhaps they’re not synth chimes at all, though; perhaps they’re the reversing signals she’s recorded from a lorry. But then a Ludovico Einaudi piano line takes flight and you realize that this is the work of a composer, albeit one as comfortable tinkling the ivories as she is recording tube trains accelerating. A change in key ushers in more midnight babble as Zazie’s fingers get lighter by the stroke, as if each pinkie’s strapped to a little sack of helium now that the clock’s struck twelve. Then someone walks across a gravel drive, wary of triggering the security lights, and you realize “Nacht” is the German translation of night, and Zazie’s intricate blend of piano scales, gooseflesh samples, and faint busker strumming show even the classically trained can capture the city: a mix of litter and sodium lighting.