Grandbrothers Announce Album “Late Reflections” out April 14th on City Slang & Shares New Single “Infinite”
At its core, Grandbrothers’ music represents a communion between the old and the new. On their extraordinary new album, ‘Late Reflections’, due out April 14th on City Slang, the German-Swiss duo place their art in communion with an institution so old it predates their music by seven centuries: Cologne Cathedral. The iconic monument of Gothic architecture, which is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Germany’s most visited landmark, served as an unusual recording studio for Grandbrothers’ fourth album, marking the only time the Cathedral has ever permitted a recording of this kind. The resulting album pulses with a rare sense of history and architecture, allowing the spatial properties of this magnificent building to shape and deepen the timbre of the duo’s swelling compositions.
As far as concept albums go, ‘Late Reflections’ is evocative and immersive, and it asks as many questions as it answers: What does it mean for music to interact with architecture and physical space? What is the sound of a church that has been revered for centuries for the way it looks? How can artists forge something new out of 700 years of history?
The cathedral setting subtly steered the duo towards more ambient, atmospheric instincts. “On our previous album we went into a more physical and club-influenced direction,” reflects Sarp. “This album, we just said, ‘Let’s see what happens and be free to go more into ambient, or more atmospheric, experimental sound spheres.”
This feeling is evident on new single “Infinite”, which the duo have shared today along with a visualiser filmed at the cathedral. The band comment: “Infinite was one of the first ideas that came to life after our first acoustic explorations at the cathedral. We knew that there would be a lot of reverb, but we never expected that the room would be that magic. One thing that was clear immediately: The music needs room to breathe and all the echoes and little sparks should play an essential part in our conversation with that room.”
This compelling orchestration stirs an array of emotions through the threads of the looping keys to the remarkable atmospherics, this track will move you, captivate you and alter your entire world through the 4-minute-plus journey you embark on from start to finish. Magical, moving, and meaningful. Grandbrothers develop this intricate exploration with this magnetic pull to the affectionate waves which cascade through the tones, the resonating notes, and the immense textures that assist to direct this voyage. Through the chords and the progression of this stunning composition, this feeling of light falls into the audience’s voyage, and a refreshing sense of air exudes into the formation, elevated by the buoyancy of the rhythms and the gentle melody.
Through this fragile and reflective landscape, Grandbrothers say so much.
Grandbrothers have made a career out of spurning tradition. Formed in Düsseldorf, Germany, more than a decade ago, the piano duo creates richly textured music that straddles the boundaries between ambient, minimalism, and electronica. The result is always different, yet always centred around the unique collaboration between German-Turkish pianist Erol Sarp and Swiss engineer/software designer Lukas Vogel. Across three albums—2015’s Dilation, 2017’s Open, and 2021’s All The Unknown—the duo has drawn peculiar inspiration from what others may regard as a limitation: every sound, every note, somehow originates from one instrument, the grand piano.
Why record a new album in a centuries-old Catholic cathedral, one whose enormous size humbles any passing visitor observing the building from near or far? Although Grandbrothers are not religious and don’t aspire to make religious music, they were inspired by the Cathedral’s rich history and astounding architecture. The idea emerged after a concert in 2019, when the historic church’s master builder and architect, Peter Füssenich, approached them and unexpectedly asked if they wanted to perform a concert at the Cathedral. “We didn’t know, is this gonna happen for real?” Sarp recalls.
It did happen, albeit three years later, in 2022, as part of a celebration honouring the 700-year anniversary of the consecration of the eastern (and oldest) part of the church. On August 26, 2022, Grandbrothers played a one-of-a-kind concert in the massive main nave of the Cathedral, performing music that had been specially designed for the vast size (the room stands 45 meters tall) and acoustics of the unusual space. The performance was also recorded by TV station ARTE and will be broadcast in France and Germany in early 2023.
“The first idea was to only have one or two songs specially made for the concert,” says Vogel. “This concert came closer, and we were there to have the first test of the acoustics. We were really impressed by this place. Sound-wise, it is really huge, and especially at night, when nobody else is in the Cathedral, it’s so breathtaking. During the process, we realised that this environment makes it so much fun and challenging to write music for this place.”
Leading up to the concert, Sarp and Vogel wound up preparing a whole album’s worth of material, which turned into ‘Late Reflections,’ their fourth and latest LP. Although ‘Late Reflections’ is intimately linked to the concert, it is not a live album; the duo recorded the work at the Cathedral across a series of nights in July. “The concert was after the recording,” notes Sarp, “but the concert was the reason we wrote this music and that this whole album came to life in the end.”
The recording process was both exhausting and invigorating, and unlike anything Grandbrothers had done before. Since the Cathedral remained open during the daytime—the landmark routinely brings in 20,000 visitors a day—Sarp and Vogel recorded at night, alone with seven centuries of history. There were magical moments of playing piano at 3:00 a.m. in total solitude. The shadows, reduced lights, and strange noises emanating from different corners of the room had a surreal effect.
“We were working from 8:00 to 5:00, sometimes to 6:00 in the morning,” says Sarp. “It was a totally bizarre experience. But it was also really unique to know that no one has done this before and maybe no one will again. At times, it was just the two of us in this big room. It’s really hard to describe the feeling we had during those nights.”
Like Grandbrothers’ previous records, ‘Late Reflections’ (the title refers to an acoustics term—early reflections are the first reflections one hears from the surrounding walls, while late reflections are more diffuse and delayed) contains no sounds that do not stem from the grand piano. In other words, every sound you hear originates with the piano, although listeners should not confuse that to mean that no other software or gear was employed to manipulate those sounds. “We use the piano as a sound source, and then we go with digital effects and manipulate it further,” explains Vogel. “For me, it really helps to not get lost in all the possibilities of using synths and samples and so many sound sources. It just makes it easier to have this restriction. But from there, sound-wise, it can go everywhere.”
At its core, this is a deeply collaborative album—not just a collaboration between two unusual musical partners (as well as sound engineer Francesco Donadello and mixer Paul Corley, who finely helmed the stereo mixes), but a collaboration between Grandbrothers and the Cathedral itself, a backdrop which influences the album’s sound as profoundly as a set design might shape a movie’s look.
‘Late Reflections’ will be released on April 14th via City Slang. Pre-order here.
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