Head here to submit your own review of this album.

We're now well into double digits for Volker Bertelmann's Hauschka albums, and by now his once novel reinterpretation of John Cage's prepared piano is well documented. It would be naïve to presume, however, that this is what sets him apart from his contemporaries - far more convincingly than anyone else, he has managed to fuse the worlds of classical and electronic music for now over a decade using just the one instrument. However, as time goes on, it seems that while he's refining his technique, he's running out of ideas.

Perhaps it's down to the insistence of the media (or Bertelmann himself) to focus on the novelty of the prepared piano, but his recorded output has been never seen the peaks (nor, it has to be said, the troughs) we one expected from him, and has instead just been consistent. While Bertelmann is clearly a talented composer, his invention of new playing techniques and new sounds, somewhat ironically, restrict him. There's no denying Bertelmann has a really good ear for the subtleties and complexities that are often disregarded in dance and electronic music - the density it requires to make the simplest of notes to stand out, and how to introduce repetition while still engaging are both real standout qualities of his work - but over-reliance on his prepared piano has left his overall body of work. Sounding exceptionally similar and in danger of being stagnant. There's nothing more frustrating than listening to someone so obviously talented such as Bertelmann play it safe, album after album.

Perhaps then, a live album may bring more interesting textures out of him? The chance to hear the creative process at work, to hear what he makes before he feels the need to recompose and structure, to limit himself? Well, yes and no. The prepared piano is still there, and still has all the now-obvious surprising textures, but we do get to hear the occasional refreshing experimentation.

For 2.11.14, Bertelmann recorded two extended improvised tracks in a small art gallery in remote Japan. The actual recorded output, however, sounds anything but improvised or remote - we're not listening to a man in tune with his instrument here, we're listening to a man going through his repertoire in new places.

Nothing about this album sounds like it was live or remote, and very little seems improvised, which is the problem that Bertelmann's facing with his piano - as long as he's fine tuning every element of the piano, playing with each note as much as he is, he will come across more as an engineer than a musician. With the exception of a genuinely quite interesting use of feedback on the second side towards the end, these tracks could have been lifted off of any Hauschka album, live or not. That being said, there's no getting around the fact that 2.11.14 is a nice release, and contains all the hallmarks of a Hauschka album. Unfortunately though, that's all it is - it's another album that will sit comfortably in back catalogue alongside each previous and successive album. He doesn't chase minimalism or explore different types of modern classical approach like Nils Frahm (who, it's interesting to note as also used prepared piano on Felt , he doesn't go all out and push modern classical into dance and electronic in new ways each time like Chilly Gonzales - he simply goes through the paces and makes another Hauschka album.

Bertelmann seems to exist in a vacuum, and while he sounds better rehearsed on later releases such as this one, he's still not pushing or trying anything new that he wasn't trying all those years ago when he first started putting foil in his piano.

This is the place you'll find reviews from 405 Readers. To join in, head here.