So here's Peace Orchestra. There's no reason why anyone here or anywhere should have heard of Peace Orchestra. There's no snob factor or co-opting of pop esoterica in that statement—Peace Orchestra was never big here, and most people who know and love it found it by accident. One album was all we got, not counting the inevitable various-artists remix homage paid to that one-shot landmark disc. An eponymous cd, the largely instrumental set is a slow, ethereal burn — one laden with too much energy and surface tension to dismiss as mere chill-out music. It rewards casual, volume-down background listening, but that isn't where Peace Orchestra shines. Put on the headphones or, well, turn it up, man.
Peace Orchestra — the chosen moniker for Austrian dj Peter Kruder — knew what it was doing when it set out to make a half-speed synth power record, and, from the opening's placid, trickle-silence-trickle sequence of watery sighs, Kruder's confidence in manipulating what is typically a frenetic, booty-happy genre announces itself as implacably as the first distant peal of thunder from a coming storm. If the Chemical Brothers at their most frenetic are to electronic music what Dizzy Gillespie is to jazz, think of Peace Orchestra as electronica's Miles Davis.
Kruder's aesthetic choices are far outweighed by his technical capabilities; he doesn't let what he can do get in the way of what he's trying to do — and that restraint, with repeated listening, becomes a virtue that opens the music like a gyre to more discovery; more interest and, paradoxically, less familiarity.
This is not music that has anything to say—it's too important for that. Kruder instead nixes language as a vehicle for aural expression—except where he doesn't. The disc's stagey, operatic closer—"The Man Pt. ii"—has some quasi-discernible mantra urgently sung with theatrical bravura, but, like the whole album, it sweetens the ear candy and lades the atmosphere. The entire album is a money shot—Kruder doesn't know what filler is—but "Meister Petz," the second song, is the kind of musical apogee that necessitates an entire album's worth of drawling, swinging, brass-lazy comedown, and that's just how the rest of Peace Orchestra plays. It's the soundtrack for the kind of slow and smoky movie that might have happened if noir films had descended without rediscovery or revival to the present day.
Just as everything else the downbeat Kruder has touched, Peace Orchestra melts genre cliches—trip-hop; ambient; darkwave; drum & bass—into viscous, simple gold. It's for people who hate genre name-dropping and who probably think they hate electronic music, and for anyone who knows when they're hearing something they like, regardless of its a fortiori associations. Britain’s Aphex Twin, another 1990s avant-garde electronic artist-behind-an-avatar project (Richard D. James, if you're nasty), has been caressed by music writers as classical music for the electronic age. Well, if you can look past what a maudlin sentiment that is—regardless of artist—and if the spirit of such an utterance doesn't tighten your throat a little, then it can probably more justly apply to Peace Orchestra.
If you find a physical copy of this, it won't be in Cullman or most other places, and you should buy it. iTunes has it, as does the usual online gamut of download storefronts.
P.S. - Peter Kruder is one half of the modestly better-known Austrian electronic duo Kruder & Dorfmeister, a mid-1990s-to-present collaboration that consistently brings conviction and creative mastery to slow and midtempo electronic music. Any purchase of K&D work is worthwhile spending.
* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.