Grandbrothers have made a career out of spurning tradition. Formed in Düsseldorf, Germany, more than a decade ago, the piano duo creates richly textured music that straddles the boundaries between ambient, minimalism, and electronic music. The result is always different, yet always centered around the unique collaboration between German-Turkish pianist Erol Sarp and Swiss engineer/software designer Lukas Vogel. Across four albums—2015’s Dilation, 2017’s Open, 2021’s All The Unknown, and 2023’s Late Reflections—the duo has drawn peculiar inspiration from what others may regard as a limitation: every sound, every note, somehow originates from one instrument, the grand piano. 

Sarp and Vogel first met in university, at an entrance exam for piano. Sarp was studying as a pianist while Vogel was immersed in electronic music production—crafting electronic devices, building his own synthesizers—but the pair bonded over a shared interest in minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and John Cage. In 2011, when they began creating music together, they settled on a deceptively brilliant concept: They would outfit the grand piano with a complex assortment of acoustic pick-ups and electromechanical hammers and make the instrument the centerpiece of their musical approach. 

That doesn’t mean every component of Grandbrothers’ music sounds like a piano—merely that it’s the sonic bed for their bold experiments, an inventive approach that has sometimes been described as “open heart surgery on a grand.” “We use the piano as a sound source, and then we go with digital effects and manipulate it further,” explains Sarp. 

At its core, Grandbrothers’ music represents a communion between the old and the new: the exquisite melodies of piano-based minimalism, the beat-driven energy of electronica. On their fourth and latest album, Late Reflections, they placed their art in communion with an institution so old it predates their music by seven centuries: Cologne Cathedral, which served as an unorthodox recording studio for the compositions. It was the first time the Cathedral has ever permitted a recording of this kind. The resulting album pulses with a rare sense of history and architecture, allowing the spatial properties of this magnificent building to shape and deepen the timbre of the duo’s swelling compositions. 

Late Reflections is a deeply collaborative album—not just a collaboration between two unorthodox musical partners, but a collaboration between Grandbrothers and the Cathedral itself, a backdrop which influences the album’s sound as profoundly as a set design might shape a movie’s look. The cathedral setting steered 

the duo towards more ambient, atmospheric instincts. “This was the first time that we had some sort of concept for an album,” Sarp says. Across their career, Grandbrothers have refined their craft as a powerful live act, with visual components and elaborate light design. “I think a lot of people are surprised when they come to the club shows and see that the music can work as well in a physical way and can be loud and intense,” says Sarp.