Ambient Artist German Error Message Releases Aching New Album
You know those moments when you’re listening to something but it doesn’t really feel like you’re listening, it feels like you’re being followed by sound, covered in it, blanketed by its layers? That’s what it feels like to listen to German Error Message. The solo project of Nashville artist Paul Kintzing, German Error Message has spent over a decade creating worlds within worlds of his music — dreamy, moving ambient stuff that feels far away and suffocating at the same time.
Last week, Paul released his latest album Mend, an impossibly pretty selection of some of his most stirring ballads yet. "Mend was written and recorded mostly in isolation during a transitional period in which my day-to-day life changed a great deal,” Paul tells The Music Mermaid. “I was experiencing intense doubt after shelving an album that I had been working on for a year but couldn’t seem to finish. I started over entirely, writing and recording new songs for what became Mend."
Mend opens with “Murmuring,” a song so weighed down by deep plumes of synth and quick plucked strums that it seems to rise from sludge and sand. There are some eerie post-rock elements to this one, mostly in its instrumentation, and it’s softened by Paul’s shy vocals. Unassuming in its airy delivery, it’s as emotional a beginning as we’d expect from German Error Message, but on “Hopelessness,” we move from ambient to indie-folk. The vocals are still soft as air but they’re a little more confident this time, staying steady over acoustic strums before dreamy tones bloom far beyond them. On “Red Kitchen,” German Error Message delivers one of those shell-shocked songs that physically pain you to listen to. It was one of our favorite songs of February, for good reason — it’s so beautifully filled-out, detailed by percussive shimmers and the tenderest layers of guitar, each element merging to create a fleeting ambient miracle.
On “Protection I,” the shortest track off Mend, Paul’s gloomy vocal tone leads another smashing post-rock style track built on punches of percussion and an overarching feeling of anger, or at least angst, moving into “Protection II,” its counterpart that finds increased emotion in a more robust arrangement. The instrumentation is as filled-out as it’s been so far on Mend, echoing and pulsing. “Water” kicks off with the discordant sear of an eerie piano note, devoid of the kind of sweetness and softness we’ve gotten so used to on Mend. Paul’s vocals are lost in the cloud of instrumental aggression, singing abstract lyrics as we tumble together into the album’s sole instance of itchy discomfort. On “Saltless,” there’s an instrumental camaraderie that works to deliver the most earnest, in-your-face arrangement yet. It has something to say, and it does, but it says it in thick slaps of pounding percussion and pretty riffs as Paul aches through some of his most poignant lyrics. Mend ends with “Carefully,” a stunning, atmospheric conclusion that hearkens back to the album’s looming beginning. Here, once again, German Error Message crafts a stirring ambient ballad plucking signature skills from Paul’s arsenal — uncomplicated songwriting, instrumental crescendos rising from nothingness, ghostly harmony.
On his latest album, German Error Message offers up a selection of songs that span serenity and a controlled kind of chaos. There are moments when we feel healed by its general softness, but there are also moments we feel hurt by it, a stark duality that attests to Paul Kintzing’s ability to make everything out of nothing.
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Featured photo of German Error Message by Sam Bourland