[sic] Magazine

Van Der Papen – Majestic Ep

[Parvoart] Recordings
Reviewed by Michael Henaghan

A brief history is useful when determining the inception, or at least the reason for, Van Der Papen. As former members of hardcore rock outfit Schate, twin siblings Ronald and Christophe Lonkowsky’s interest in euphonic ambient techno started after a friend of theirs, Duncan ó Ceallaigh, lent them records by the likes of GAS and Yagya. Immersed in the deep and heavy sounds of these seminal albums, the brothers married this with their love of soundtrack composers such as Angelo Badalamenti and Harry Gregson Williams and Van Der Papen was born. Fittingly, the fruit of their labour (the “Majestic Ep”) sees light of day on ó Ceallaigh’s [Parvoart] Recordings stable. [Parvoart], for the un-initiated, is a microlabel based in the German Baltic Sea port of Wismar, that defines itself by an unified aesthetic based around unique artwork and photography and a preference for the 3” CD format. “Majestic” is this imprint’s maiden voyage into the world of ambient techno.

Van Der Papen have clearly studied those aforementioned records, the influence of Wolfgang Voigt’s GAS is prevalent throughout, particularly notable in the soaring, layered synth work on each of the three compositions featured. Though, dismissing this record as a blatant carbon copy would be wrong, as the Lonkowsky brothers use their grounding in chillout, club and noise to add their own spin on proceedings. Immediately noticeable on this recording is, the comforting, velvety production job. Right from the first few seconds Van Der Papen shroud everything in a blanket of whispering vinyl crackle and surface noise, fashioning a woozy, tranquil ambience throughout each piece.

“30483” takes its name from the number of days that lapsed between the turn of the 20th Century and the brothers’ date of birth and its shifting phasing sounds, gentle beats and pulsing bass provide a sterling backdrop for Duncan ó Ceallaigh’s echoic hammered dulcimer – surely the first use of this instrument in the techno field?. “April”, on the other hand, is far more standard, utilising vast Vangelis like synths that swirl and melt in the foreground in tandem with electronics straight from the Hawtin handbook. Though, it must be pointed out that, there is much more going on underneath than its ambient techno veneer.

Though their approach is streamlined, Van Der Papen at least attempt to forgo the traditional dynamics of this genre. Of course, this Ep features all the expected hallmarks of an ambient techno release. From the gliding, glissando synth work, submersed, aquatic basslines and rhythms of looped beats. And while the Lonkowsky brothers may be lassoed by comparisons to GAS they still, however, manage to carve out their own unique niche in a saturated genre – and for that I commend them.