Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Munk’s “Amaris”

“Amaris” is an adventurously grand track of dream-pop beauty from German electronic artist Ulrich Schnauss and Danish collaborator Jonas Monk. I heard it last week while running in the Ballona wetlands – which has since become my new scouting grounds for unheard music. It used to be my morning drives to work. But Covid-19 put the brakes on that venue.

Anyway, I’ve been eyeing and earing this sumptuous 2017 instrumental, since I caught sound of it through the Spotified airpods. And today, I’ve finally opted to write up a few colorful choice phrases, as well as get it posted in a somewhat timely manner.

Full disclosure, though … I actually bookmarked yesterday for this one, since it was the Summer Solstice – i.e. longest daylight of the year. And metaphysically speaking, that’s a great day to soak up the sun, indulge in the positive vibes, and set a few future intentions.

“Amaris” fits that bill nicely, full of lush melody, passages of widescreen scope, sparkling in chimes of rich texture and aural splendor. It gushes beatific optimism, shimmering warmth and sol-hazed illumination, making for hopeful thoughts and shining promise.

But yesterday, in my neck of the woods, or I should say coastal wetlands, the sky was chilled white overcast, and the day was consequently lethargic and tired. So I just couldn’t bring myself to think, let alone write. Plus, I’m pretty sure last week’s temporary return to the workforce, as brief as it was, proved a bit more exhausting than I initially believed. I guess when you’ve been living the unemployed fantastic, jumping back into the swing of things can be a subliminal shock to the system – even if it’s short lived.

Probably true. But I digress …

Despite all that, “Amaris” still feels right, particularly once I’ve adjusted my headspace to right-side up and forward-aimed orientation. Also, one day late of the Solstice still keeps all the desired themes in the metaphoric ballpark, with all future thought intact and ready to saunter forward.

See if you agree …

“Amaris” from the 2017 album “Passage.”

Schnauss is a curious electronic artist, influenced by shoegaze and dream pop, with introductory moves in drum ‘n bass and breakbeat bleep, and contemporary settlings in ambient, downtempo, and chill-out grooves. He’s got a wealth of material, his most notable efforts being a pair of relaxed instrumental works, “A Strangely Isolated Place” (2003) and “Far Away Trains Passing By” (2001). Currently, he’s a member of longtime electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream, whom he joined in 2014.

Jonas Munk. Photo sourced from artist’s Facebook.

Monk works under the moniker of Manual, a glitch/ambient pop collage of organic composition, electronic at its core, yet seated in traditional instrumentation – albeit heavily processed in a whirly haze of echo chamber effects and reverberated delay. Not surprisingly, he leans quite liberally into the shoegaze and dream pop aesthetics, which easily greases the etheric wheels of his likeminded collaboration with Schnauss.

As the opening track, “Amaris” hails from the pair’s 2017 collaboration “Passages, ” their first being 2011’s eponymously titled “Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Monk.” Both works are unique naturalistic journeys all their own, drifting through thoughtfully tangential explorations and chilled meditations. You can explore that on your own time.

For now, here’s another, more visual perspective of “Amaris,” full of widescreen cascades and organic flow, an outdoor excursion of elemental contemplation … which incidentally, fits quite well with the Solstice, both the overcast one I experienced, as well as the brighter one I’ve idealized.

For a bit of serendipitous context, I’m also including this wonderfully spacious and sprawling excursion titled “Summer of Freedom” from Monk’s main project Manual. The title is quite on point with my overt mindset of this post-Solstice day. Plus, it truly sounds amazing, particularly at high volume.

“Summer of Freedom” boasts an abundance of lavish guitar work, strung up, shaped, and sculpted into a shoegazed wall of ethereal sound. It’s dense and spacious, all at once, sprawled across nearly a dozen hazed minutes of immersive six-string wash, with peaks and valleys that casually drift in and out of volumetric power and tonal intensity. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I never heard it when it was first released, since this one’s totally in my reverb-centric wheelhouse.

Anyway, on that note, here’s the seasonal and Solstice appropriate “Summer of Freedom” from Manual’s 2005 album “Azure Vista,” presented here in a 2015 remastered version. Enjoy!

“Summer of Freedom” from the 2005 album “Azure Vista,” presented here from 2015 remastered release.

Ulrich Schnauss:

Jonas Munk: