Irmin Schmidt – Villa Wunderbar

•November 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

irmin-schmidt_villa-wunderbarFront_350Although many artists have successfully combined modern methods and ancient traditions, Irmin Schmidt’s sound alchemy is certainly quite exceptional in music history. Be it 20th-century new music merged with that of the Late Middle Ages, or experimental rock with 1000-year-old far eastern court music, the outcome of his work has always been a starting point for something unprecedented.

Maybe he wasn’t the very first to play recordings of the French 14th-century ‘Messe De Notre Dame’ and tracks of traditional Japanese music simultaneously – thereby getting extensive sound collages with a strange atmosphere, at a time the term “sampling” had yet to be invented – but, surely, he was the only one to give up a promising career as a composer and conductor at the age of 30, just to establish one of the most influential rock groups in history.

A lot of the styles he had been engaged in during his formal education in composition, piano, and music ethnology, later would somehow or other be integrated into both the sounds of legendary krautrock outfit Can and his solo works: a preference for African rhythms and “world music” (yet another phrase to coin) that he shared with his band colleagues, Stockhausen’s dealings with electronics, John Cage’s Dada side of music, and the sense for spontaneity and presence of mind he gained from the Fluxus movement.

So it’s not surprising that the by now 76-year-old is well-known for the compositional complexity of his works and a huge diversity of genres. ‘Villa Wunderbar’ wants to provide an insight into his vast oevre, especially as a solo musician, which is not easy to overlook: next to a series of albums, it includes nothing less than an opera (‘Gormenghast’, based on the Mervyn Peake trilogy), a ballet, several releases with English composer Jono Podmore aka Kumo, and over 100 film scores.

Among the many gems on this double-cd are a remix of Can’s ‘Last Night Sleep’, as well as a re-mastered and extended version of ‘Alice’ (originally from the ‘Lost Tapes’ released in 2012). Even more interesting is the selection from the long-term collaboration with Can co-founders Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit, like the title track itself, or ‘Love’ from the original album ‘Musk At Dusk’. Even after the group’s disbanding, the same driving force, linear rhythmic, and soundscape openness that once marked their Soon-Over-Babaluma-era was still present: in Liebezeit’s angular drumming, in a musical collective where each instrument plays as an equal, or in the gentle piano piece that suddenly turns into some mystic tango version of post-Damo-Suzuki-Can.

Equally impressive are the African rhythms electronically generated by Kumo, interacting with noise-pop-like intros and spooky sound collages, or Schmidt’s ‘Gormenghast’ arias, arranged in true opera style with fully trained voices, and mixed with tribal drums.

Many soundtracks, however, come across as over-sentimental – and thereby form the composer’s synthesis of the arts: a fusion of high and low culture, kitsch and good taste, ancient music traditions and modern equipment. As to both music and attitude, this compilation really is remarkable.

Key Tracks: Villa Wunderbar, Le Weekend, Time The Dreamkiller, Rapido De Noir
Label: Mute Records
Release Date:  4 November 2013

Floating di Morel: Goal Less Play – Review

•August 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

floating-di-morel-goal-less-playSince the band’s foundation in 1994, Berlin-based Floating di Morel are known for leaving both audience and critics somewhere between sincere appreciation and genuine confusion. With almost rudimentary equipment and (to outsiders) quite unpredictable intentions, the trio has been cultivating a pretty bizarre mix of lo-fi psychedelic rock’n roll and minimal-postpunk-industrial avant-garde (according to the members’ own description) – a sound which, so to speak, screamingly contrasts with their neat appearance and decent clothing.

Apparently that sound puts on many listeners and critics an intellectual strain so big that it constantly supplies fuel for controversial debates on musical aesthetics. So, a recent discussion about their newly released, fourth studio album Goal Less Play is currently ranging from “semi-acoustic strumming” and “crude rumbling noise with awful vocals” right up to sound effects that supposedly are a pain in the ears.

As we know, there’s no arguing about taste, but “taste” is also a question of listening habits. Anyone who’s a little familiar with the music history of the past 50 years, will certainly admit that FdM albums do sound somehow like the Berlin version of Velvet Underground, subtly blended with the minimalist arrangements of classical Suicide and the “industrial” noise elements of Throbbing Gristle. And realise what to unaccustomed ears seems like a bunch of unfinished songs, might just be pure intention.

Like all these artists, who surely received similar critiques in their time, FdM are so leftfield and askew that, after repeated listening, their music reveals an aesthetic beauty of its own. Here, vocals as quirky and indifferent as Lou Reed’s, electro-acoustics limited to the essentials, and elaborated harmony changes (permitting in some parts even a comparison to Syd Barrett) add up to angular minimal songs radically opposed to all mainstream, which are a real gain for any avant-garde scene.

Goal Less Play is even more out-of-the-ordinary than FdM’s previous albums, as between its 14 songs there are 13 sound snippets, apparently made from what was lying around in the studio: fragments of sentences and seance-like muttering, electronically modified noises from devices that have long since outlived their usefulness as household articles, or the recording of musical instruments which one has yet to master.

If you cannot tolerate all this, then probably FdM is not for you. But who has the heart to venture into something unconventional, will definitely be thrilled. There’s only one thing that really gets annoying with the new record: the songs are just too beautiful to only last between 52 seconds and 3:06 minutes. A “normal” duration of three or four minutes would have been much nicer. But that’s typical for FdM, as even in the case of track lengths they are beyond the rule. After all, the listener shouldn’t get too comfortable …

Astute, innit?

Key Tracks: Wacfet, Sense of Surprise, A New Divine BH
Label: play loud! productions
Download / LP
Release Date: 10 August 2013


Friedman + Liebezeit: Live at Festsaal Kreuzberg

•August 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A new concert documentary featuring legendary drummer Jaki Liebezeit (CAN) and electronic musician Burnt Friedman continues the play loud! (live) music series        

Those having the chance to see Jaki Liebezeit live and to actually watch him playing the drums, will be impressed by the unparalleled level of precision and ingenious simplicity of his drumming. And on top of that find out that Liebezeit is, even beyond his 70s, still one of the world’s best in his profession.

In fact, the Can-founder has been far from retiring: after numerous collaborations with renowned artists (Jah Wobble), legendary ex-colleagues (Holger Czukay) and even more legendary producers (Conny Plank), in the 90s he completely moved away from classical percussion and since then plays “just drums”. The principle of simplicity, having already been his trademark with Can, has therefore increasingly come to the fore in his language of rhythm. In the early 2000s, he finally found in the musician and producer Burnt Friedman the perfect interlocutor.

Their now twelve year long collaboration has so far produced five studio albums and seen numerous live performances. Seeking new musical forms and searching for globally relevant rhythms, together they created from Jazz, World and electronic a kind of trance-like ritual music far beyond the ordinary three-four time of old Europe: “It possibly incorporated many elements of this earth without featuring any specific elements,“ says Jaki Liebezeit. In a work where all the individual elements have been made abstract, neither an ethnic nor a national character remains. “There’s nothing typical to Seville or Istanbul, but the properties held in common by all types of music have been abstracted and processed,” he adds. Interwoven with Friedman’s synth layers, what comes out of it are exceptionally beautiful sound collages of an archaic vitality, beyond mass consumption or the bustle of everyday life.

Watching Jaki Liebezeit on drums also means getting immersed in the repetitive grooves that he produces steadily, from an impulse.  As part of a continuous process, these pieces appear like fragments out of an eternal sound continuum, knowing no beginning and no end. The instruments here are mainly the musicians themselves, just executing what the musical structure dictates – and because you want to play it all really well, it is repeated over and over again. As it was with Can, so it is today – even if the duo might sound less intense than the krautrock five-piece from the past.

Filmmakers Dietmar Post and Lucía Palacios have now included a taster of this live experience in the music series of their production label play loud!. As part of a project to document the performances of particular, rather out-of-the-ordinary artists such as Gebrüder Teichmann, Damo Suzuki & Sound Carriers, Faust, or Camera, the footage for this 43-minute Friedman & Liebezeit concert film was recorded at a gig in the famous (and by now unfortunately burnt down) Berlin Club Festsaal Kreuzberg on 15 December 2011.

Having their roots in the tradition of Direct Cinema, Post and Palacios have made another very authentic, intuitive documentary, showing us two artists in their natural environment: two musicians deeply immersed in their work, relaxed but highly attentive, every now and then looking at each other in silent communication. We, as spectators, may feel like at our own personal venue, watching closely Liebezeit’s drumming technique. Or catching one of the rare moments when the master looks up from his drum kit and realises that everybody’s having a great time: then an expression of honest, joyous amazement crosses his face, accompanied by a slight shining in the eyes. – After all, some things you can only see.


Friedman + Liebezeit: Live at Festsaal Kreuzberg  
Label: play loud! (live) music series
Download  / Video Stream HD 16:9, colour, 43’39” min, 2013
Release Date: 5 May 2013                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Friedman & Liebezeit : http//

Watch: La Düsseldorf – Immermannstraße

•January 24, 2013 • 3 Comments

Or: Japanese in Düsseldorf

“Immermannstraße” is the first video to a track from La Düsseldorf’s upcoming album Japandorf, showing footage of Klaus Dinger and his band on a 2006 boat trip on the river Rhine, around the Düsseldorf-Kaiserwerth area.

“Düsseldorf, du bist unsere Heimat” – Düsseldorf, you are our home – these were the lyrics on the 1976 debut album of NEU! successor La Düsseldorf, another great krautrock band born of Klaus Dinger’s genius. And this very home is also the location of Germany’s only Japantown, with Immermannstraße as one of its centres. Although being just a small minority, the Japanese expat community has been playing an important cultural and economic role in the Rhine metropolis for more than five decades.

In his search for a special collaboration with artists who all shared the same background, Klaus Dinger started an entire music project with artists from Düsseldorf’s Japanese “village”. As a vision of “the sound of the 21st century”, Japandorf began in 2000 and took seven years to perfect, with recordings in both the Düsseldorf studio and in Zeeland. Even so, “Immermannstraße” sounds quite like the old 1976 style, but that’s just fine. Good to know that even at the beginning of the 21st century, Klaus Dinger hadn’t lost anything of his multi-instrumentalist talents and driving “motorik” beat. What’s new is the extremely nice Japanese accent in the always somewhat angular German lyrics, giving the sound a very special touch. Like Damo Suzuki in Immermannstraße. Looking forward to hear the rest of the album!

R.i.p. Klaus Dinger, who passed away in 2008, shortly before the album was complete. The long awaited Japandorf will now finally be released on 25 March 2013 on Groenland Records.

Watch: F-Sky – Forever Blue

•December 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

F-Sky is a project by Berlin-based French artist François de Benedetti, who made this reverb-laden psychedelic trip of sound, somewhere between The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Koolaid Electric Company. One of the nicest new tunes in alternative music in 2012. Video edit by Adriano Coiso.

Watch: Dead Skeletons – Buddha-Christ

•November 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Those who went to one of their shows, and so took the opportunity to see that Dead Skeletons are really as cool as they sound, will certainly enjoy their upcoming single Buddha-Christ, out on 12/12/2012 on Fuzz Club Records & Dead Monk Records. Coming along with it is this really cool video. Obviously shot on the road, it shows footage of their past European tour, featuring an advertising column, the interior of a tram (probably German), a basement, an emergency exit, the platform of U-Bahn Berlin Nordbahnhof, a peacock painting, several skulls, Anton Newcombe, many autobahns, one wind farm, an airstrip, a goat, trucks inside a car ferry, and, of course, Nonni Dead. All this is highlighted by an exciting track of energetic motorik mixed with a dark, industrial sound. Dead Magick continued …

Fanta Dorado & Der Innere Kreis – Review

•November 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Wir haben Dienst. – We´re on duty. And if we´re nothing else, we´re on duty. So say the lyrics of Düsseldorf artist Nikolai Szymanski in Röhrentäler (yet another example for the city´s tradition of naming music tracks after machines, electronic devices, or other rather non-human objects), one of the electropop highlights on the debut album of his solo project Fanta Dorado & Der Innere Kreis. Röhrentäler begins quite monotonously, slowly working its way through the pipes and valves of its title, before it gains momentum as an accomplished pop song. And keeps amusing the listener with well-known German clichés: “Hast du die Akte dabei? – Have you got the file? – Wo ist dein Stromzähler? – Where is your meter?” And on it goes: “We want to label everything.” Today one less, since it´s Friday.

On the other hand, there´s the synth pop ballad Die Insel, where the artist addresses the dreams and yearnings of his overworked fellow citizens: “There´s a place in the world where you can find all that you´ve ever been looking for …” But no worries if you don´t understand German, since this latest output from one of Germany´s most innovative music capitals speaks for itself.

Nikolai Szymanski is a member of the Düsseldorf synth-pop-kraut-electro trio Stabil Elite, who´ve released their highly acclaimed debut album Douze Pouze earlier this year. Fanta Dorado continues in the same way: “arranged with the help of a Minimoog, an Oberheim Matrix 6, some tongue clicking, Roland drum machines, and wobbly guitars” (according to the record label), the current solo project, too, seems to have picked up all the city´s musical influences from the past and the present, and so has become another stylish blend of wave, electronic music, Neue Deutsche Welle, and synth pop. The cool, rhythmically elaborate intro Der Kreis, quite reminiscent of Kreidler, is already a perfect example. It´s followed by ten diversified pieces that range from excursions into the good old motorik to an extended research of the possibilities of synth sound. – Oh yes, and we still drive on the Autobahn.

Last but not least, Tachyonen-Mann deserves particular mention here not only for its musings about Life, Truth, and Everything (“Will the truth come to light? What difference does it make when all things happen at the same time? Where does the gestalt go when all is cold and dull?”), but for its high musicality (by the way, is it just imagination or do the first 30 seconds have a vague similarity to OMD´s Maid Of Orleans?), which makes it the album´s most brilliant track.

Fanta Dorado is at least an 8 out of 10, and another fine example for high quality pop music made in Germany.

Key Tracks: Röhrentäler, Tachyonen-Mann
Label: Italic
CD / Download / LP
Release Date: 22 October 2012


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