The grand piano usually leads a solitary life. It rarely teams up with other instruments, especially electronic ones. So, the intimate connection between Erol Sarp’s grand and Lukas Vogel’s electric hammers and dampers may be unique. Together, Sarp and Vogel are Grandbrothers.

Sarp is a classically-trained jazz pianist; Vogel is an electronics engineer who builds synthesisers. They met in 2007 at the Institute of Music and Media in Düsseldorf. Vogel hung electromechanical hammers on bars over the piano strings and positioned more hammers to tap the instrument’s wooden casing for percussive effects. He also sampled the sounds in software and added looping effects. Sarp’s compositions are founded on classical, jazz, and electronic dance music styles. The result is a very modern sound generated entirely by a traditional, acoustic instrument. Although the piano has been augmented, there are no entirely synthetic sounds.

Grandbrothers have released three albums to date: Dilation (2015), Open (2017) and All the Unknown (2021). Here’s a live version of Newton’s Cradle from the Dilation album.

That’s fairly typical of Grandbrothers – everything they do seems to sit somewhere between minimalism and techno. And it goes down very well at Crotchety Mansions.

Their second album is particularly satisfying. So much so that it’s difficult to pick a sample track. But try this one:

Then there’s this chilling video version of Black Frost from Grandbrothers‘ latest album, All the Unknown.

And, finally, Grandbrothers released a new single just two days ago. It’s a reworking of Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1, which featured in these pages in June last year.

In the style map, the Sarp/Vogel duo sit near Poppy Ackroyd and Hania Rani and, if you look over their shoulders, you can see GoGo Penguin not far behind. Further off, in the background, Steve Reich and Ryuichi Sakamoto look on. But none of this would be possible without the symbiotic coupling of a grand piano with electric coils and sequencers.

Erol Sarp and Lukas Vogel

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