Polyspace – Tactual Sense

Funkwelten Records (FW 004), 2003

Collaborations are curious things.  How is it determined which person assumes the bulk of the responsibility, and does someone at all?  From novels to albums, the results are always interesting, especially when one or each of the separate contributors is already familiar.  You may pay additional attention to the work, attempting to suss out traces of the artist you know.  Sometimes, however, it is impossible, because the end result of the creative process is a true joint effort, each artist playing off and inspiring the other, and the collaboration becomes something that would have otherwise become impossible.

Ingo Lindmeier and Sebastian Ullman must have experienced this.  Working together, they produce under the name Polyspace, named as a combination of Lindmeier’s Polygon project, and Ullman’s For A Space.  To date, Polyspace has released just one album, Tactual Sense, on the independent German label Funkwelten in 2003, but it stands as a prime example of both artists combining their strengths in true collaborative fashion, while producing commendable music at the same time.

The music on Tactual Sense can be described as melodic IDM with an electro foundation.  The production is tight and focused, with For A Space’s clean synth lines and echoing sequences mixed with Polygon’s minimal piano chords and meandering slightly glitched percussive programming.  It’s a natural fit, sounding like an extension of each individual project, with neither Lindmeier nor Ullman overwhelming the other, each respecting the talents of his partner while not compromising the unified vision.

Tactual Sense treads very closely to ambient and New Age, with a sense of wonder hanging over the music rather than melancholic isolation or vast threatening interstellar chasms.  The album unfolds with relaxed grace, full of unhurried tempo and casually evolving keyboards.  The initially wobbling “Portable” creates space with breathy samples and scattered electronic noise, only to blossom into Lindmeier’s reverbed piano backed by Ullman’s dreamy synths.  A light beat kicks in, soon followed by the familiar wobble, and we are off on a journey into strangely lit solar systems and nebulae.

There’s a definite “space ambient” feel to Tactual Sense, despite it being a piano-and-beat album at its core.  Even when a sampled telephone breaks into “The Call,” it feels as if the incoming message has floated across immeasurable gulfs from beyond the stars….but it is a welcome communication rather than an menacing one.  A beeping electronic melody and sporadic drum-and-bass percussion anchor “Latenz,” while Ullman provides a window into the glorious night sky once again; the track feels like an interstellar Morse code sequence is being fired into the cosmos, hoping for a recipient light years away.

“Grown Out” is driven forward by delicately distorted drums and classic EBM sequencing, while an irresistible piano line and carefully placed synth washes keep the track from becoming too aggressive.   “Motif” is full of cloudy grace, with intertwining melodies held together by patterns of glitch and trembling percussion.  The Kraftwerkian “Model” (perhaps named in homage to the German legends?) is carried along by a classic electro bassline, while an off-key twinkling melody is offset by lightly broken clicks and gentle swipes.  The album closes with the dub-like hymn “Heaven,” finishing off the journey with a shimmering destination somewhere beyond the galaxies overhead.

It’s unfortunate that Polyspace has not released anything further.  Aside from two excellent exclusive tracks on a Funkwelten sampler (Funkwelten, The Label Compilation 01 – an outstanding compilation, by the way) that would have fit on Tactual Sense like a second skin, the project has fallen all but silent.  Perhaps it was viewed as a one-off experiment, yes, but Lindmeier and Ullman collaborated with such effortless elegance, one can only dream what else they might have done.  But for one album, the stars and planets fell into rare alignment.

Tactual Sense lies somewhere between the yawning gulfs of dark ambient, the dream-state of New Age, the minimal lovely piano of Harold Budd, and the edginess of glitch, but ultimately, it can be best identified as the cohesive effort of two artists working together in pure harmony, creating the music they felt compelled to, without paying too much attention to convention or genre.  The result is, quite simply, a gem of an album.

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