He doesn't seem like someone who'd perform at an arena, but Jesse Reiner's aural ambitions as a contemporary Krautrocker are Wembley-sized. "I would love it if we were playing in stadiums," he says of his solo synthesizer project, Jonas Reinhardt, citing no interest in celebrity but expressing a deep amazement at the apparent scale of Tangerine Dream's gigs in the '70s. "They were a big band! It amazes me that people had that much patience for that."
This amazement folds neatly into Reiner's shimmery present-day endeavor, which only recently, with the advent of Norwegian space-disco and the West Coast's various strands of tripped ambient, did he feel might draw any audience at all. It's clearly a liberating undertaking for the Berlin School enthusiast: much of our conversation at a bar in the Mission is gladly given over to his influences, ranging from Klaus Dinger's caveman-like "motorik" drum sound in Neu! to the heavenly, droning thrum of White Rainbow up in Portland, Ore. Many may know Reiner for his synth and guitar contributions to Ascended Master, Crime in Choir, and Citay, which he left earlier this year. While his first record for Kranky as Jonas Reinhardt is deeply influenced by German electronic sounds, the project in no way sounds like a non sequitur alongside his other bands.
It was some time ago the mid-'90s when Reiner was won over by analog synths as a college student, discovering such electronic/ambient innovators as Michael Garrison, Klaus Schulze, and Manuel Göttsching. He and a friend entertained the idea of making a record they could pass off as a lost recording by two imaginary Düsseldorf academics: "Wilhelm Freuder" and "Jonas Reinhardt."
The moniker has become useful again as a vaguely defined face for the launch of this new project. As Reiner describes it, Reinhardt is a "suave European guy who makes very continental, European-type electronic music and lives in Monaco." Goofy as the premise is, placing the project's image at a remove from the actual musicians behind it has proven appropriate, as Jonas Reinhardt is a solo endeavor in the loosest sense of the word: performances have happened as a trio with Damon Palermo of Mi Ami on drums and Kenny Hopper, also of Crime in Choir, on bass. Just recently, the band took on a fourth member in guitarist Phil Manley of Trans Am and the Fucking Champs, who provided tape treatments for the project's debut, which Reiner recorded himself.
The full-length, Reinhardt's second release after this summer's Modern by Nature's Reward EP on iTunes, is a shiny, cerebral pleasure where the synths hiss and gleam through a set of tunes that often feels as improbably bubbly and vintage as Matmos' recent all-synth undertaking, Supreme Balloon (Matador). There is grit to the Reinhardt beat, however, and its sound takes on a more danceable form live, as could be seen at its YouTube-d Big Sur appearances, the first of which was an after-party gig for Kraut legends Cluster. Basic tracks have begun for the next record, which Reiner predicts will be more beat-driven. For a fictional character, Reinhardt is quite eager to collaborate, too: Reiner hopes to record various "Jonas Reinhardt and So 'n' So" discs in the coming months and years.