Few records have weathered the fast-moving, fickle trends in electronic music like those of Microstoria. The duo brings together two of the most prescient, playful minds in the German electronic underground – Jan St. Werner (Mouse on Mars, Fiepblatter Catalogue) and Markus Popp (Oval). Their albums as Microstoria are considered foundational texts in ambient music while equally sounding just as cutting-edge now as on their initial release, continually cropping up in “best of” lists from the likes of Pitchfork and FACT while finding new fans through remixes by Jim O’Rouke and Stereolab. Each of their rippling soundscapes is a masterful study in subtle gestures, tiny melodic vapors curling like smoke around rumbling subs and glistening synthesizer textures with a delicate interplay between light and shadow. After being long out of print and coveted by collectors, the duo’s cult classic albums init ding and snd now receive the expanded reissue treatment as a double LP, featuring remixed sleeve artwork based on the original designs and a full remaster of each by engineer Rashad Becker.
Microstoria’s creative process was as much about careful listening as composing, the duo working in a dialogue with their machines. Their first outing init ding (1995) captures the thrilling, anarchic energy of Germany’s experimental underground in the 90s, rendered in beautifully understated atmospheres. In those early studio sessions, Popp and Werner would cycle through synthesizer patches and effects settings while playing, sounds glitching and taking on new shapes with each turn to create moments of genuine surprise. Throughout the album the duo wrest paradoxically organic sounds from digital instruments, with everything from bird-like calls to aqueous washes of bass or fizzing strings that crest like rolling waves of warm analog thrum. The duo’s sophomore album snd (1996) provided a subtle refinement of those earlier recordings, stripping back the dense layers of texture to play with space and tension, with an even greater contrast between light and dark. The album finds comfort in colder, deliberately digital soundscapes - the sound of neon lights illuminating the empty concrete of the city at night, or dial-up router glitch bathed in the warming glow of monitor screens. This is no mere wallpaper music, but living, breathing ecosystems of sound teeming with detail and tangible feeling.
Nearly 30 years on from their original release, both init ding and snd still offer thrilling new revelations with every listen. Much like the nature of their creation, these are records that reward deep listening. The expanded reissue of these two classic albums highlights their enduring influence and uncanny genius, standing essential titles from two artists still shaping the landscape of contemporary music today.