Volker Bertelmann, the Düsseldorf-based pianist better known as Hauschka, is known for his explorative and evocative instrumental compositions and his ability to modify parts of instruments to achieve perfect arrangements and sounds, to which Foreign Landscapes also abides. Drawing upon a similar concept noted in his previous album Ferndorf, Foreign Landscapes extends his reference and inspiration from his childhood village to the various cities he has traveled to throughout the world. Though the concepts mimic each other, there is a noticeable shift in tone and presence in this album. Ferndorf contains more subtly sweet moments influenced by familial nostalgia, whereas Foreign Landscapes is a moody, intricate and overall hauntingly serious album, due to the sense of exploration and discovery projected by his prepared piano and 12-piece string and wind ensemble. “Sunny Mission” conveys tones of frenzied movement and thought with the heavy use of piercing violins and sporadically timed strings. It is a flourish of intense movements, but opening to a moment of tenderness and potential sadness—a vision amongst the wreckage of spastic sounds. Juxtaposed entirely is “Kouseiji” which is intimate and soothing on account of Hauchka using just his piano, knowing the sincerity of his technique and the sentiment of the instrument itself. It is the perfect match for this intended purpose.
Foreign Landscapes is beautiful and creative, unsurprising considering its creator; however, for how good some of the moments are and how ingenious some songs can be, there is not the same sense of completeness and finality that has been present on other Hauschka albums, specifically Ferndorf. Foreign Landscapes is great because of Hauschka’s use of imaginative instrumental arrangements and his vivid characterization of songs; yet, it leaves a sense of lingering, a void needing to be filled with a final purpose or that last note that could not be found.