During times of isolation, it can be challenging to discover new stories and things that inspire us. While a city-wide lockdown is quiet, the lack of social interaction can be deafening. ‘Hommage á Noir’ is a record that’s beautiful and conducive to a remedial state of introspection.
The title track of the 1996 album by German composer, Ralf Hildenbeutel, ‘Hommage á Noir’ is an almost nine-minute masterclass in emotive music. The album itself was written to accompany the visual poem of the same name, directed by fellow German, Ralf Schmerberg. Shot on black and white film without any spoken word, the German duo leave it to imagery and sound alone to pay tribute to the depth and diversity of African culture.
As a classically trained pianist and composer, the journey into writing film scores might seem a straightforward path. Ralf’s deviation into the world of electronica, techno and trance in the early ’90s was anything but. Collaborating with Sven Vath on his earliest work, which included producing his 1993 Accident in Paradise album, he continued to play a pioneering role in developing the trance sound of that decade.
You can clearly feel the development of this sound bleed into the ‘Hommage á Noir’ record. There are moments of space, of depth, sections of intensity, all presented with the utmost warmth.
A delicate two-minute intro builds time and space, while the vocals from Karama Kuyateh fold themselves around the instruments. The climax is undoubtedly when we meet the bassline at well over the four-minute mark. From here, you can sit back and enjoy the fact we’re only halfway through Ralf’s journey.
If you’re to take anything from ‘Hommage á Noir’, take a break from the noise of doing not much at all.