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Conrad Schnitzler - Zug: Reshaped and Remodeled by Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer

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Artist: Conrad Schnitzler

Album: Zug: Reshaped and Remodeled by Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer

Label: m=minimal

Review date: Nov. 13, 2012

“Connie” Schnitzler had finished with Tangerine Dream and Kluster when he made and self-released his now fabled Red Tape back in 1974. The daddy of industrial and the father of Krautrock had moved on and up into his own deep experimentation modes by this stage, producing works as introverted as they are difficult to catalogue. He described his work as “making horrible noise and then organizing it into music,” something he did with such a far reaching influence, movements such as home-made electro-acoustic, post-punk, techno, and electronica, all found their early influence overlapping time wise with Schnitzler’s sound experimentations. Rather than Schnitzler asserting influence, these diverse movements found themselves drawn to him and his oeuvre – but that’s Conrad Schnitzler, a personification of Luciers sitting in a room, the music swirling and looping back around him, bringing the world in ecstasy to his feet.

The first interpretations of The Red Tape came in 2010, by Pole (a.k.a Stefan Betke) and Berlin duo Christian Borngräber and Jens Strüver. Both recordings are included here, but as you can tell from the album’s title, the focus is on super studio duo Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer (Sun Electric, NSI, Moritz von Oswald Trio), fresh off their reconstruction of the ECM catalogue. Villalobos is something of a veteran himself these days, even to the point (some might argue) of retreating into the annals of Puritanism, leaving the uncharted territory to the rogue new. If this criticism is fair, this collaboration with Loderbauer around Schnitzler is a kind of academic fealty, a filling in of the gaps in one’s musical perception of sorts.

That impression is dispelled by the sounds, and the spectre of Schnitzler himself. Like his contemporary John Cage, Schnitzler is a force outside of pure academic appreciation, because it never defined him, not was it able to contain him. Zug: Reshaped and Remodled is more than homage. This is a work of appropriation, absorption and unity. A morphing occurs between the three artists that both needs and refuses their individual histories. Sure, Villalobos and Loderbauer tease out a kind of “new” from the dark original, but this is not simply a technical modernisation of an old master. The sound undulates with the potency of a live improv, none of the experience forsaken for the temptations of the new or the perfections of the studio.

The first track, the ‘Aktion’ mix, moves Schnitzler into traditional Villalobos K-hole territory and immediately gives rise to the dance club vibe. Early listens almost lean toward a repetitive uninspired drum machine overshadowing the occasional foray into Schnitzler-sound. However, a closer listen reveals a subtlety that implies one master sitting at the feet of another. The dance vibe, precisely because of its repetition, swirls itself into the background and it is the Schnitzler electronics and augmented sounds that come to the fore. Given this ethic, the value of the track comes in multiple listening, not the frenzied experiential vortex of the dance floor. Sinister swells and rises form a circular expectancy that is ultimately met through the relentless patterns and cycles.

Track two, the ‘Sorgenkind’ mix, is another affair altogether, a truly stunning track that slithers and sweeps its way past expectations, so that the listening experience is continually sideswiped from its own anticipation. A heaving mass of tension lines anchors all surrounding sounds and the music is never allowed to flit into the melodic relief of the original, but borrows heavily from the interpretation of Borngräber & Strüver. This is Schnitzler deconstructed and peeled back. Key phrasing is taken, almost randomly, from the original and drawn out through the earlier remodeling, to form a latent hostility of sound, a dark version of the ‘80s prog-infused tack of the prototype. The slow build of Schnitzler’s swell remains, but it has been unleashed in a post-domesticated paring down, resulting in liberation. If the ‘Aktion’ mix gave us Schnitzler in the fore, it is Villalobos and Loderbauer that firmly hold the reins here. ‘Aktion’ has its own magic, but the power of Zug: Reshaped and Remodled definitely lies in the work of its second track. Conrad Schnitzler himself said the artist’s life must be part of his artistic representation. Here we have three great lives successfully melding into one remarkable narration.

By Lisa Thatcher

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