Art has the power to mirror and capture its creators surroundings and environment. Art can also reflect something much more personal by offering us a glimpse of the artist’s mind. Hands Rest, the 2nd studio album by German composer and musician Aparde, does both. While reflecting the essence of Berlin’s club scene, in which Aparde undoubtedly is immersed in, the album also takes us to the depths of the musician himself, far from clubs and live sets, to a world that is both intimate and profound. “I think that I always process circumstances uncon- sciously in my music and that my way of thinking is full of internal conflicts,” he says. It is this duality, of an artist who is both entertaining Berlin’s nightlife through electronic sounds and delving deep into his own emotions through avant-garde pop, that epitomises Aparde’s work.
Hands Rest, which was created over the span of one year, has a cathartic feel to it, “the process was very diffused in terms of time, because over the past year my life circumstances have been very complicated and often frustrating, and I had to motivate myself again and again.” While he crafted the tracks, Aparde was in fact processing his own thoughts and feelings after the end of a long relationship, and listeners navigate through varying soundscapes that seem to accompany Aparde’s own internal commotions as he himself navigated a turbulent year. “It [the break up] was accompanied by numbness and repression. This was followed by a period of inactivity and the thought of ending my activity as a musician,” he tells.
But while pain, anger and melancholy can be felt in tracks, Hands Rest also contains moments of transcendental insight and “breakthroughs” that evoke comfort and acceptance. For Aparde, making music has always had a therapeutic effect, and many of the album’s tracks take psychological states as a starting point on a journey of self- knowledge. Take the album’s first track, Tar, whose tone is at once heavy and subdued, or tar-like as Aparde notes, “like a dark sticky mass into which one dives.” For Aparde, the track refers to the emotions of denial and acceptance that are so intrinsic to the human experience; “To live with what you do not want to live but learn to live with.”
These meditations are felt through the entire album, and it is no surprise that making it was also a highly introspective and solitary endeavour: “everything that I do, without exception, arises from my own hand,” he says.
There is undoubtedly a lot of Aparde in the album, not only through what he hand-crafts on his analogue equipment, but also through his own voice. “I use my voice in each track either as a sound element or as a lyrical component, that is, as classical pop songwriting.” Aparde’s lyrics also expose a fragility that complements the harder electronic elements, “I try to be as honest as possible and keep the message as simple as possible” he says. This transparency certainly shines through in the album’s first single Hands Rest where Aparde sings: ‘And I feel like a tired child. Now all my senses wish to sink into the night.’ The track is also accompanied by a video, which exposes the musician’s face and hands in close-ups of palpable candor; “That's me, but now I have nothing left to hide, I'll show you my open hands and my naked battered face” says Aparde of the single.
In fact it is the use of his voice in Hands Rest, in hushed and soft tones, that balances some of the more dance tracks with mellow and deeply intimate undertones, showing the progression of the artist from a club musician to something that lies beyond that environment too, “I wanted to make half of the album with avant-garde pop tracks and the other with club tracks.” The second half of the album certainly feels more thumping than the first, with repetitive beats of a faster tempo, but the choice of equipment accompanied by Aparde’s voice warms up what could otherwise feel impersonal, “Only analogue instruments were used. With the DSI Prophet 08 I mainly make rhythmic lead sounds, pads and atmospheric layers... I do not use external samples or ready-made preset sounds,” he explains. In Integrity, one of the album’s dance and more stimulating tracks, heavy electronic crescendos are intercalated with Aparde’s mum- blings on a loop, “Integrity calls for radical action. This title wants to be heard and lived, and, except for a brief moment of searching for the right direction, it does not contradict and continues on its way.”
No Need is the track that perhaps most encap- sulates Aparde’s duality between an avant-garde pop musician and a club artist. It takes the listener from a place of heavy-hearted alienation, sadness and beauty to the stamina present in a Berlin club. No need sees Aparde unfolding the flow slowly, switching the mood of the track from inward to outward, in a way that characterizes the whole album; “No need is a development from emotional melancholy to an aggressive drive,” he explains.
With Hands Rest, Aparde brings listeners deep into his soul, a soul that is at times conflicted and agitated and at times low-key and solemn. And as he does so, the listener’s own mood is muted and lifted in a journey of quest, dance and healing “I learned that the power of your own thoughts can affect your personality and your own reality. Now I try to use this consciously to lead a happy life. I hope that my music can continue to make me and others happy and inspired.”