curmudgeon that I am, the shining times from 1969 to 1975 were
the peak period for progressive rock. After that, commercial
ambitions and mainstream pressure blunted, some would say killed,
imagination and experimentalism in rock music, especially within
the progressive context. Yet there were still a few persons who
continued to progress and experiment, ignoring the pressures of
the music ‘industry’ and mainstream culture.
One of the
more interesting lights in the darkness was Conrad Schnitzler.
Schnitzler had been a voice for experiment in music since
co-founding the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiak_Free_Arts_Lab
) in late 1960s West Berlin, Germany. Schnitzler along the way
also collaborated with those mainstays of electronic music,
Tangerine Dream and Kluster/Cluster, in the early 1970s. And
Conrad Schnitzler has stayed busy since, no matter the decade,
consistently producing interesting music irrespective of
‘industry’ twitches and culture’s ever-changing winds.
always fun to get something to review that you know little about.
Exposure to new experiences is good. So, when I was asked to
review the new release by the musical collective Big Robot
(http://www.myspace.com/ cosmicindustrial) of course I was
interested. On the other hand, their involvement with one of
Germany’s great experimental musicians, the aforementioned
Conrad Schnitzler, certainly compelled my attention even further.
This is no sleight on Big Robot; there are so many bands and
projects about these days that it is beyond easy to get lost in
the abundance of releases and overlook some great music….even
music created with someone as noteworthy as Conrad Schnitzler.
Robot’s core musicians are Per Sjoberg and Ole Christensen, with
assistance from Joakim Langeland and the irrepressible Conrad
Schnitzler. Sjoberg and Christensen cite The Residents, Coil,
Neu! And Kluster (the original formation of Cluster, with Conrad
Schnitzler) as musical influences; names which certainly caught
my immediate attention, Coil in particular. Coil at all times
manifested that wayward and individual experimental aesthetic to
me, whatever form it took, beginning with their amazing first
release How to Destroy Angels to their (sadly) last The Ape of
Naples (leaving aside archival releases). Big Robot clearly has
good taste in influences! Needless to say, Big Robot has with
their debut release, Aquafit, decided to create music conversant
with sonic experimentalism past and present, informed by their
personal vision. It is a vision both ear-catching and
of Aquafit is simultaneously dark and charming, grabbing the
listener’s attention with sounds both alluring and unexpected.
The album begins with “Dyrenes Dronning”, an ambiently moody and
vaguely industrial piece. Next comes the surprising synth-reggae
of “Coca Kohle” and its humorous evocation of the artificial; a
track strangely reminiscent of “The Sad Skinhead” by Faust, in
tone and album placement. With “Psychic Joker” the Conrad
Schnitzler influence beams in from the analogue planet of your
choice. Great bubbling stuff without a song structure in sight,
which is a compliment to all minds involved. On the title track
there is a bit of Schnitzler/Residents-esque mutated voice and
off-kilter synth warbling that gets stranger and more mysterious
as it moves along.
the listener feels like they are moving through a thick analogue
soup punctuated by the garbled undersea communications of
various alien aquatic species. The album continues on like this,
invoking and twisting the ambient and experimental into
fascinating shapes and waveforms. By the time I got to the end
of the album it felt as if I had travelled far and wide, to
places where the familiar was but a distant dream. Musically,
Aquafit compares quite nicely with such Conrad Schnitzler albums
as Ballet Statique and Conrad & Sohn, as well as the more
ambient and experimental side of Coil. There are even a few
parts that almost evoke a hint of Klaus Schulze perhaps, circa
his Body Love (1977) soundtracks.
is fond of analogue sounds and non-traditional musical
structures which fire the imagination, in ways that most bands
seldom seem to do these days, should definitely seek this album
out. For purchase info contact Karisma Records
or the Plastic Head online store
William Frederick II