- Frankfurt/Santiago's Uwe Schmidt is nothing if not prolific, a tireless innovator producing in numerous forms, for numerous markets, under numerous guises. His output has slowed of late by just a mustache-hair, with his latest disc (this time as Atom™) apparently a labor of rumination, soul-probing and one requiring quite a bit of research. Raster-Noton, publishing their first Schmidt product, promises "a romantic work," one that negotiates dualisms of science and the irrational, clarity and simplicity, ornament and mathematic purity.
Rooted in both the synthetic and the organic, this recording is another example of the Raster-Noton clique's preternatural knack for rich sound textures. From droning sine waves that amass tactile rumbles to airy digital glitches that soothe like brushed snares, the record is rich with elements that sound coolly programmed, but so resonant, full-bodied and even animate that they evoke, like field recordings, specific environments. These are Liedgut's most immediate pleasures.
After the quality and character of sounds used, Liedgut's defining feature is its mining of a romantic past in a musical setting that we prefer to liken to the future. Much of the album flirts with mannerism, from the gentle waltz rhythms of "Wellen und Felder" to the stately motifs that color the quilts of white noise ("Weißes Rauschen"). It is, though, easy to overstate this point; this is also a record that fashions a not-terrific dub rhythm out of the familiar sound distortion heard when certain GSM phones receive calls near computer speakers. The returning motifs may play some part in structuring the album but, to me, their intermittent appearance sounds more like a picking up of threads lost in pursuit of other muses (muses like the phone glitch effect). Sort of a "now where were we..."
This push-and-pull of focused intent and playful curiosity, of the cerebral and the intuitive, sometimes works fantastically. The delicate dance is, after all, lead by a composer who changes styles more often than most of us change records. Schmidt's kitchen-sink synthesis of genres is seamless, but it's also conspicuous as hell and, frankly, can be an acquired taste. The playfulness is great at beating back the doldrums of lazy, passive listening but, for all that, the music at times claws for recognition of its own eccentric quirkiness.
Much of Liedgut's idiosyncrasy is a byproduct of its ambition. Liedgut parades the sort of easy familiarity with precedents—in physics, philosophy, programming, poetry and pop music—that one typically saves for a graduate dissertation, rather than a half-hour techno record. Liedgut provokes the listener not only to concentrate, but to decipher. This isn't to say that you can't put on Liedgut to pass time on the train. It is, however, an album whose meaning changes significantly depending on its audience's familiarity with the contexts it cites. For my part, the challenge was appealing but, whether a function of differing tastes or relative ignorance, I often felt like I was missing half the message.
01. Weißes Rauschen
02. Wellen Und Felder I
03. Wellen Und Felder II
04. Wellen Und Felder III
05. Wellen Und Felder IV
08. Interferenz I
09. Im Rausch Der Gegenwart I
10. Interferenz II
12. Mittlere Composition No. I
13. Mittlere Composition No. II
14. Mittlere Composition No. III
15. Weißes Rauschen (Erster Teil)
16. Berge Und Täler
17. Im Rausch Der Gegenwart II
18. Weißes Rauschen (Zweiter Teil)
19. Weißes Rauschen