C E E Y S
Sebastian & Daniel Selke
‘Hybrid’ is a word that has always been vital to CEEYS‘ vocabulary, but its application is not limited to the manner in which cellist Sebastian Selke and his brother, pianist Daniel Selke, combine their two instruments so harmoniously. Instead, like the duo’s very name – which merges the words ‘VIOLONCELLE’ (fr.: cello) and ‘KEYS‘ – it is reflective of their overall aesthetic, one in which they integrate the many ingredients that have helped shape them as both musicians and people.
“Brought up in the last decade of the former GDR, we use our releases to come to terms with our memories, impressions and feelings about these rather hybrid times.” – CEEYS
The idea of crossing musical barriers is not at all new to the Selkes and resonates in a particularly powerful fashion: the two brothers, now based in Potsdam, grew up in East Berlin during the final decade of the Communist-era German Democratic Republic. CEEYS’ award-winning work is provoked by their urge to explore recollections of their youth, both before and after the fall of the regime, and to apply those lessons and influences to contemporary music.
CS’ idiosyncratic style is characterised by a rather reduced approach to composition and improvisation. In exploiting their knowledge of songwriting, textures and repetitive patterns, they create an experimental but accessible minimalism between avant-garde and pop that incorporates elements of jazz, ambient and classical chamber music.
“We grew up,” they note,“in a state where the only freedom was to find your niche by being creative.”
Driven by their deeply rooted compulsion to improvise, it finds them consolidating cello and piano with restored keyboard instruments and rhythm boxes, many of them originally manufactured by the country’s domestic as well as former Soviet companies between the 1950s and 1980s, during the communist era.
Encouraged to play from the age of five by their parents, actress Gabriele Selke and radio presenter Harald Selke, the brothers went on to study music formally. Sebastian and Daniel have been featured on numerous album releases and soundtracks. Sebastian has also collaborated with Ólafur Arnalds and Spitfire Audio. They’ve also reworked the likes of Peter Broderick, Carlos Cipa and Lambert, and released two albums of their own, 2016’s The Grunewald Church Session and 2017’s Concrete Fields, released by 1631 Recordings, distributed digitally worldwide by Decca Publishing and Deutsche Grammophon. In combination with a love poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, the music and visualization for the album Concrete Fields won the Special Award at the International Poetry Film Festival Vienna in 2017.
Finally the brothers also founded Q3Ambientfest, a carefully curated boutique music festival saw the brothers invite friends and renowned acts such as Anne Müller, John Metcalfe, Carlos Cipa, Martyn Heyne, Andrea Belfi, Masayoshi Fujita, Sophie Hutchings and Midori Hirano and many more to join them onstage where they investigated a special interface between music and Potsdam’s diverse, historic architecture.
Currently, CS are presenting their third album WÆNDE at the Berlin label Neue Meister. Here, they focus on the remembrance of 1989, a year which brought many changes. At the same time, music for their first solo EPs is in the making, once more at their Klingenthal Studio, named after the small East German town where Vermona once invented and built its instruments. Further projects that are already under way include their FLIMMERKONZERTE – a series of film concerts at the Filmmuseum Potsdam and the co-curated KOSMOSKONZERTE – a series of house concerts at Rechenzentrum Potsdam. What will emerge from their work is hard to say: “The themes of our releases are never constructed but results of experiences and life itself,” they insist. And there is no doubt that they will continue doing what they have always done: weaving together those different aspects of their historic and musical interests to create yet more intriguing, innovative and inspiring hybrid.
- Wyndham Wallace