Brothers Sebastian and Daniel Selke’s music can be likened to an exercise of memory retrieval. All of their four albums explore and pay tribute to their past; growing up in East Berlin in the final decade of the GDR. At its core, the duo’s music can be heard as a dialogue between siblings about their shared upbringings and experiences, a conversation given form through Sebastian’s cello and Daniel’s piano keys, in the fusion that becomes CEEYS. In 2017, the duo also founded Q3 AMBIENTFEST, a three-day happening for neoclassical and experimental music, which seeks to explore the cultural and musical impact of East German heritage.
But the memories rescued through their music are far from only historical, they are foremost emotional recollections. Their 2018 album, WÆNDE was as much about the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and its implications in society, as it was about the thin walls that separated the brothers at home, and through which they heard each other practicing their instruments when young. The same can be said of their latest album HIDDENSEE, which speaks both of a physical place - the picturesque East German island in the Baltic Sea - as well as a place and time of spiritual importance for the brothers. As East Germany opened itself in the 90s, the two brothers would find themselves traveling out of their homeplace to the rest of the world, and while grateful for their newfound freedoms, they would also come to miss their childhood Eden.
The duality of east and west, novelty and familiarness, is also thoroughly explored through CEEYS’ musical style, which merges influences from the luminaries of classical music such as Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, with the lesser known artists of East Germany and the contemporary musicians Sebastian and Daniel were exposed after the fall of the wall. The merging of historical periods also extends to the equipment used on the album, although the cello and piano are at the core of the album instruments from the communist era were also employed. CEEYS studio setup included a fully analogue mixing console with high-end tube preamps originally built between the 1960s and 1970s for professional radio broadcasting, as well as a select collection of iconic restored microphones, spring reverb systems, keyboard instruments and rhythm boxes, many of which were originally built between the 1950s and 1980s in either East Germany or the Soviet Union.
Making the complex recording process even more authentic, HIDDENSEE was also partly produced at the legendary Funkhaus Berlin, once the site of East Germany’s state broadcasting center. The brothers had the chance to work at Saal 3, which currently hosts Nils Frahm’s impressive studio. The atmosphere within Funkhaus, with its unique architecture, reverb chambers and analogue treasures, is as stately and magnificent as that of a museum, providing the perfect setting for delving into the past.
In a peaceful and focused manner, HIDDENSEE exposes the brothers’ incredible versatility and ability to explore with different instruments, sounds, and styles. Likewise, it also exposes the intimate dynamics of working with family. Daniel and Sebastian embark on the monumental task of searching for lost times together, in a dialogue that juxtaposes and complements each others’ memories in a way only a fraternal connection can do.