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Marcus Schmickler with Hayden Chisholm - Amazing Daze

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Artist: Marcus Schmickler with Hayden Chisholm

Album: Amazing Daze

Label: Hapna

Review date: Jul. 12, 2007

Cologne's Marcus Schmickler is one of electronic music's most adept chameleons, changing sonic styles with astonishing dexterity. As Wabi Sabi, he fused 1990s-era IDM with glorious, droning electronics. As part of Pluramon (by far his best-known project), he creates shoegazer inspired rock, working with David Lynch's favorite chanteuse, Julee Cruise, to create a pie-eyed update of My Bloody Valentine. The bulk of his music-making, however, is as a composer of abstract computer and chamber music (the first recording of his chamber music, the outstanding Demos full-length, came out last year on A-Musik) and as an electro-acoustic improviser. As an improviser, he has collaborated with such improv luminaries as analog synth virtuoso Thomas Lehn and AMM pianist John Tilbury, and is permanent member of Keith Rowe's all-star improv ensemble, Mimeo.

On Amazing Daze, Schmickler channels his inner Niblock to create a pair of inspired drones in concert with New Zealand-born composer and reedist Hayden Chisholm. Chisholm plays both bagpipes and sho, a Japanese free-reed mouth organ, which Schmickler then processes and layers to form the extended, overtone-rich pieces. Schmickler explicitly dedicates the title track to Phill Niblock and, while it is Niblockian in spirit, "Amazing Daze" is no rote aping of the minimalist master. Schmickler reveals the bagpipes' ragged textures, as well as Chisholm's inhalations, exhalations and the final deflated whine as the last gasp of air leaves the bag at the piece's close. Whereas such rough edges tend to be subsumed in Niblock's dense, pulsing compositions, Schmickler allows the seams to show, creating a piece that is rough-hewn, abrasive and blissfully haunting. It's a magnificent, droning tour de force.

The second track on the disc is the wonderfully titled "Infinity in the Shape of a Poodle (for Björk Gudmundsdottir)" (yes, that Björk), which features the delicate, though timbrally similar sho. Whereas the title track was a monumental wall of sound, "Infinity in the Shape of a Poodle" is a more finely wrought creature, as Schmickler and Chisholm tweak and subtly manipulate high-pitched treble tones. It's an uncanny, unnerving piece that is at first sanguine and meditative in tone, but gradually develops into spectacularly sharp, feedback-mimicking dissonance. Although it's the less immediately satisfying of the two pieces (the slow fade at the end, in particular, leaves things rather frustratingly unresolved), the interplay of sounds is fascinating as they evolve from quiet beauty into cochlea-searing harshness.

By Susanna Bolle

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