ominik Eulberg may or may not be working as a naturalist and park ranger to earn supplemental income these days, but that isn’t to say that he isn’t still using those skills. The influence of natural sounds and textures on Eulberg’s brand of electronic dance music is understated—stompers like “Bionik” or “Der Buchdrucker” certainly aren’t laden with sampled bird calls or beavers chomping happily on logs—but once it is pointed out to you, it all starts to make some sort of sonic sense.
On Eulberg’s second full-length release on Traum, he goes a lot further than simply using some sampled noises from the Black Forest (although those are here, too) to create a sort of “concept” album. Eulberg is far deeper into it than that—he’s a genuine concept artist, and Heimische Gefilde (“native habitat”) bears the evidence of Eulberg’s passion for wildlife in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. As such, it may be a bit much for listeners just looking to get their groove on, but those interested in really digging into his craft will find a richly rewarding experience on several levels.
Ironically, Heimische Gefilde does indeed open with those aforementioned sampled birds and streams, followed closely by the first of many spoken interludes from Eulberg, explaining in his native German the particular flora or fauna that influenced his compositions. Obviously, the vast majority of non-German listeners are just going to find these spoken bits to be goofy distractions that break the momentum of the album. Despite this, a glance at the German translations of Eulberg’s intros suggests that they’re anything but straightforward readings from a nature guide. Eulberg sees art in the trees and rivers and dirt, and he expresses that in both his speeches (especially when he impersonates the animals!) and his particular brand of organic techno, laden with circular, hypnotic beats and distinctive sounds that emulate the calls of the wild.
And what music it is. The majority of the tracks on Heimische have been previously released on vinyl 12-inches over the past few years, but many appear here in strong new edits that tighten the focus of Eulberg’s sometimes overlong vinyl sides. In addition to assembling a sort of “greatest hits” collection, then, Eulberg has also tightened things up, making for a far more listenable album experience. Not that an extra two or three minutes per track would really ruin things, but the edits do keep things more concise and unified, and for an album to work as an album, that’s fairly important.
And so we get the bumping groove of “Afraid Of Seeing Stars?” and the swampy techno-funk of “Die Rotbauchunken vom Tegernsee” (“The Fire-bellied Toad from the Tegernsee”) and the rock-hard swing of “Harzer Roller” (“Harzer Mountain Roller,” composed with occasional partner Gabriel Ananda). Bass owls and percussive woodpeckers flit about the tracks, as do bats and carp and some especially slinky beats and beetles. The album closes on perhaps Eulberg’s most adventurous experiment, “Stelldichein des Westerwälder Vogelchores” (“Tryst of the Westerwaelder Bird Choir”), wherein our guide composes an orchestra of birds dissolving from the actual voices into their electronic counterparts for a unique fusion of the natural and the electronic. Eulberg introduces his helpers after nearly nine minutes of forestry funk: “We would like to thank the Great Bittern at the base drum ‘whowhow,’ the Chiffchaff at the high-hat ‘zwizwizwi,’ the Rook at the snare ‘krakrakrak,’ the Black Woodpecker at the percussion ‘knatterknatter,’ the Great Northern Diver at the surface synthesizer ‘mhmhmhmh,’ the Eagle Owl for the vocals ‘uhuuhuuh,’ the Shekduck at the 303 ‘ssssssssss’....”
Sure, it’s some kind of goofy, but is it really all that different from Aphex Twin making sounds from sandpaper or Einstürzende Neubauten’s de/construction symphonies? Say what you will about Eulberg’s methods, or even his grasp on reality, but the man knows how to work a groove. Passion and talent are generally a formidable combination, and Eulberg has both in spades.