More Brandt Brauer Frick U.S. tour dates (minus the Ensemble)

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Well, they still won’t be dragging their full 10-piece ensemble around the country, but Germany’s techno/classical crossover crew Brandt Brauer Ensemble will be playing a few more U.S. dates in addition to their previously announced gig at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors series in New York City. These will feature only the BBF trio, so don’t expect any harps and tubas playing dance music. But if you like crisp German techno with touches of (pre-recorded) chamber music instrumentation, you’ll probably dig these shows anyway.

Here are the full dates:

7/31 – Washington, DC – U Street Music Hall
8/02 – New York, NY – Lincoln Center: Only US Full Ensemble Date (w/ The Bad Plus)
8/03 – New York, NY – Santos Party House
8/04 – Montreal, QC – Osheaga

More West Coast dates soon, guys?

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Hoity-Toity Techno: Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble Making Their Debut U.S. Appearance at Lincoln Center

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If you happen to be in New York City this August and you like your techno served with a side of pretentiousness, have we got news for you. The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble is bringing their live chamber music/techno fusion to Lincoln Center’s summer “Out of Doors” series. Finally, New Yorkers can listen to techno played live, with no drum machines, while they’re sitting down—just like nature intended.

If you’re not familiar with the BBF Ensemble: They’re a 10-piece band from Berlin who play (mostly) acoustic instruments like harp, cello, tuba and live percussion, but use them to create a blippy sonic palette not unlike minimal techno. If that still leaves you scratching your head, just watch some of the live video at the end of this post and you’ll get the idea. We’re still not sure if it makes the music any more interesting than actual techno, but it should definitely make for a unique concert experience.

The Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors series is free and slightly less hoity-toity than their usual schedule of opera, ballet and classical music, but it will likely still attract a stuffier crowd than, say, the Sahara Tent at Coachella. Also on the bill that night: avant-jazz trio The Bad Plus doing a “re-envisioning” of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. By the way, combining the words “avant-jazz,” “re-envisioning” and “Stravinsky” in the same sentence literally causes NPR subscribers to pass out as if from some kind of high-culture whippit.

The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble play Lincoln Center Out of Doors on Thursday, Aug. 2nd. Did we mention it’s their debut American performance? Well, it is. So feel special, New Yorkers. Like you don’t already.

Here’s the BBF crew in action in Vienna. Enjoy.

The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble

It might not be obvious at first, but the distance between classical music and techno isn’t that great. Both are predominantly instrumental forms of music. Both layer sound in complex ways that go far beyond melody, or sometimes do away with melody altogether. Both think those avant-garde minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley are pretty dope. Techno and classical may play in different sandboxes, but they definitely share a shovel occasionally.

Still, the lengths Brandt Brauer Frick go to in order to combine the two genres seem a tad extreme. The first time we heard about these German cats, they were still pretty much building their minimal techno tracks the old-fashioned way: with lots of loops and programmed beats, albeit ones based mostly on acoustic sounds. But they were clearly interested in playing with people’s expectations of how such sounds are created; in the video for their track “Bop” (pictured above), they cloned themselves several times over to create an imaginary orchestra, playing the track’s hypnotically repetitive piano, percussion and even a well-timed rain stick with robotic precision.

But not content to stop there, BBF went ahead and created a ten-piece chamber orchestra called the (wait for it) Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble to recreate their tracks live, with no loops or programmed sounds at all. Even after watching two videos of the Ensemble in action, I still can’t decide if it’s a cool idea or not. I mean, on the one hand, it’s pretty damn impressive that these musicians—including a harpist, cellist, trombonist and whatever you call a tuba player (tubist?)—have the restraint, rhythmic sense and technical prowess required to produce the layered, percussive sounds of techno with mostly acoustic instruments (they sneak a Moog in there, but still). On the other hand, well, isn’t this what drum machines were invented for? I’m just not sure if it adds anything to my enjoyment of the music. It’s like watching a master sculptor carve an IKEA table.

But judge for yourself: Here’s a clip of the BBF Ensemble rehearsing a handful of tracks, including two (“Teufelsleiter” and “606 ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll”) from the first BBF album to feature the Ensemble, Mr. Machine, which is out on !K7 Records next month. What do you think…brilliant techno/classical fusion, or pointless technical exercise?

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