Tag Archives: Conrad Schnitzler

August 3rd, 2016 – April 22nd, 2017 (Twenty second week)

This one took a while, maybe the longest gap between entries so far. I actually cheated and listened to other records that I haven’t included here but will include in the next post, if there is one. I’m feeling unsure about this whole thing again. First, it’s very self-indulgent and not interesting to anyone but me. I know I’m doing this for myself, but it’s hard to shake the thought that it doesn’t need to be online. I’m also doubting the efficacy of it. First, it took me almost a year to listen to ten records (well, a bit more, but you get my point), so is it actually urging me to listen to more records? At the same time I also went beyond my self-imposed ten records a “week” limit and listened to other things I haven’t written about yet.

I think that after the initial rush of actually listening to 10 records every week, this blog became a way with which I’m cataloging what I listened to. The idea is that I can go here and read about records and see what were my impressions of them because sometimes I really don’t remember. If I really liked a record or really didn’t feel a record, and I don’t remember that, then I have reason to put it on. The issue, though, is that I almost never check this site to find out what records I should listen to again. Another problem is that writing the entries takes a while. It’s just so much time and I find myself wanting to spend this time on other things, which is because I don’t have the need to express myself in this way about records I listened to.

So is this thing over? Maybe. Right now 220 records in almost two years seems like a pretty good accomplishment to me.

1. Conrad Schnitzler – Rot [1973]

“Holy crap!” was my reaction as soon as I put this record on because the sounds are just so incredible, full of clarity and focus, and beautiful and weird both at once. He creates suspense, anticipation, and progressions with just sounds, no melodies to help the pieces evolve.

What I really like about this record, and I think Con is similar in this way, is that it’s timeless. It could have easily been made today and no one would have thought it sounded dated.

Rot predated Con by a few years, and I think it stands on its own. However, it’s a lot more abstract than Con. I think I listened to Rot 20 times now, but I can’t really sing anything out of it. Of course, I would recognize it if it played somewhere else, but there’s really nothing that I can grab onto to remember the record, hum it to myself, or anything like that.

2. Faust – Faust [1971]

I’m going backwards. I started with Faust IV which was their last record, then to So Far, and now to their first record. It’s interesting hearing their progression in reverse.

This record is more jam-y and kind of psychedelic. It seems obvious to me from listening to it that they were into a lot of British bands of the time, but a lot more experimental than any of those bands were. There are little drones, stuff that sounds a bit like collage, weirdo vocals, synthesizers, and spoken word.

I read a review of Faust IV before that sort of called it their mainstream record compared to the records that preceded it. I see where that reviewer came from, but I disagree. Faust has longer stretches of noise/experimentation, so naturally it’s a more difficult listen, but experimentation isn’t measured in length. I think experimentation has to do more with how far the artist goes outside of their comfort zone, and whether or not they’re doing something that was done before. Artistic experimentation is a personal thing and Faust IV has them doing different, new things. Faust IV has them moving completely outside the British psychedelia thing.

3. Conrad Schnitzler – Blau [1974]

My first thought was that this record is more musical than either Rot or Con, which in my mind it’s a bit diminishing but I really shouldn’t think of it that way. Blau is just easier to follow because there are identifiable intervals and melodies that don’t sound like transmissions from another planet. The end of the first track has a guitar!

Where this record really shines is the bonus tracks. Even though I had access to them, I didn’t listen to them at first because I try going by how the record was originally released. However, one time I let it keep playing and I was absolutely hooked. I think it’s fair to say that like the “actual” record these tracks are also musical, but at the same time they’re a lot more radical. Just like Rot this record definitely sounds like it could have been released today.

4. Suicide – Suicide [1977]

A couple of years ago I was talking to my friend about cats and he told me one of his cats is named Frankie Teardrop. So I asked what or who he named him after, and he played me the Suicide song. I asked if that’s how the song just goes for 9 minutes and he said “yeah”, so I replied “yeah, I got then idea then”. Now that I think about it, that’s probably when he stopped liking me very much.

It’s kind of funny that that was my attitude three years ago. Not sure why. I like this record, and I like Frank Teardrop, but I honestly haven’t listened to it a lot. Probably because it’s so intense.

5. My Bloody Valentine – Glider [1990]

I read an interview with Brian Eno on The Quietus before his latest record (The Ship?) came out. He listed his favorite (or recommended) records and this was one of them. I listened to Loveless before and it didn’t grab me, but that was easily 10 years ago.

When I put it on my wife looked at me and said “what is this? pop music?!” and yeah, the first song is like that. The second, Glider, is awesome noise, err, collage? Or maybe a collection. Then a couple more songs that are more like what I remember Loveless to be like, except that I now like it. The ghost-like vocals (especially the ones sung by a woman) are hitting a spot for me, but I think what really does it for me is that the band sounds like one instrument. Like one human played all of them at once. All of it – vocals, bass, guitars, drums, feedback – the band gels together real well.

There’s something comforting and predictable about this record. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but it’s almost like I know where the music is going. It’s not a bad thing, even though I think I’m making it sound like it is. I think I’ll just have to keep listening. Thanks, Brian!

6. Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen [1968]

Leonard Cohen died at the end of 2016, and I started writing this entry in 2017, but I actually listened to this record last summer before Leonard Cohen died.

I never really listened to Leonard Cohen before. I heard Hallelujah, of course, but that was it. I heard some of his songs on WZRD here in Chicago and I liked them immediately. I went ahead and got this record (one of the songs they played was Marianne). I like it, but I find that I feel about the folk revival the same way I feel about hardcore punk, which is that the genre was really saturated. I think that the folk revival had more finesse to it, but at the end of the day it’s a man or a woman with an acoustic guitar singing songs, and I like it, but I don’t have the need to listen to every folkie. I do, however, think that folk has more to offer because the singers usually have pretty unique voices. Also, some folk musicians evolved when the 60s expired – like Dylan and Cohen did. I should also say that I don’t feel this way about actual folk music from before the Great Depression.

So where does it put me when it comes to this record? I don’t know. I like the songs and the lyrics seem good (I never really “get” lyrics), but I don’t desire to listen to it often or a all.

Yeah, this entry isn’t saying much.

7. Silver Apples – Silver Apples [1968]

The first thing I noticed is the compact, succinct drums. The drums sound like loops or a skillfully programmed drum machine, because there’s little to no variation between one bar to the next. On Program, a four minute track, the drums are exactly the same for a minute before there’s a drum fill. Then it’s the same beat with a bit of accents on the snare. It really is like a drum machine where the accent has been turned on for the snare hits, but you know, with a beating heart. It’s interesting that this was happening here in 1968 while at the same time Jaki Liebezeit was working in Germany on similar of minimalism and repetitiveness of the rhythm.

The tone generators do a lot more than I thought they could. What I mean is that I have heard of the Silver Apples before and knew what they were about, so I formed this idea that it’ll be very primitive in terms of the notes and sounds. It’s not like it sounds like a synth, but it doesn’t sound rudimentary either.

I have talked before about how I experience music differently when I sit in front of the speakers vs. when I do stuff around the house. That’s about how much attention I’m paying to the record, but with this one, there’s no way one can experience it when not being in front of the speakers. This record is panned like a lot of 60s records, but it has this really psychedelic, trippy effect here. I actually felt a bit nauseous at times.

 8. Fire! – She Sleeps, She Sleeps [2016]

Fire! is sort of a supergroup that I’ve only recently heard of even though they’ve been making records since 2009.

I spent some time thinking about if this record is “new” or not, and I know it’s stupid and is a problem that’s plaguing me, but what can I do. At least it makes me listen to things more intently. Anyway, yeah, I think it’s new.

They create an atmosphere in each song in a way that I don’t think I hear often. Part of it is the recording, which is exquisite, and makes me feel like I’m in the room where they recorded. But it’s also something about the timbre of the instruments and how they blend together. Instruments drop in and out and let others take over, but at the same time no one is ever claiming all the space that was given to them.

It’s free jazz but it’s not pummeling the listener like a Coltrane record could. Mats Gustafsson creaks and howls, but he’s also following a tangible melody and not cramming a million notes in. The guitar is also unconventional to free jazz – no virtuoso solos or disjointed ba-bee-boop solos, and no too many chord changes when accompanying the rest of the group. The guitar player sort of just spits out sounds that add to the atmosphere.

Lastly, the drums. Very choppy but at the same time flowing. Beautiful beats.

9. Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity [1975]

I think this might be my favorite Kraftwerk record so far. I like all of them, and they are all different, but I like what this one establishes. The tracks are beautiful and kind of sound like German folk songs but with synthesizers and drum machines instrumentation. There are “space” sounds. There are odd sounds. It’s a little experimental. Their singing is great. They essentially talk with a bit of a tune in their voice, but also none of them is a “singer”.

Unfortunately, not all the tracks on this record are like that, onlyRadioland and Ohm Sweet Ohm. The rest are shorter, and either more experimental and “weird” or more, eh, bubble-gum-y?

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about this record, at least for now.

10. Joy Division – Closer [1980]

This record is the sole reason why it took me so long to finalize this post. I actually finished listening to all these records way before 2016 ended, but I had and still have a hard time connecting with this record, or Joy Division in general. It’s not that I think that Joy Division were bad, but that the mood of their music is very specific and I never find myself in that mood. I also noticed that whenever I listen to them I’m a little hungry and their music makes me desperately hungry.

I like most of the songs on this record with the exception of a couple, but the thing for me is that at first they weren’t memorable. What happens often when I listen to music is that it either wows me as I’m hearing it, so then I want to hear it again because I remember that it blew my mind (for instance, Conrad Schnitzler records did that), or that a couple songs get in my head and I went to listen to them again. With Closer, none of the songs wowed me or got stuck in my head, so there was never something that was driving me to listen to it again other than feeling like I should listen to the record so I can write about it. It’s only now, April 2017, that I woke up in the morning and had Twenty Four Hours and Decades in my head, and that’s because I listened to Closer last night in order to familiarize myself with it further.I’m still conflicted when it comes to their “sound”. The records sound awesome, but their sound also places them in that time period. Moreover, it was Martin Hannett’s sound and not theirs.

 

 

Advertisements

February 11th – March 2nd, 2016 (Nineteenth “Week”)

Got this one done pretty quickly! I actually finished listening to all the records on Friday, February 26th, but took some time to re-listen to things and edit. There’s more krautrock here and some more music that is a little out there, as well as totally “normal” stuff, like Liz Phair.

1. Chris Walla – Tape Loops [2015]

I’m not too familiar with tape loops music. I listened to the four Ambient records Eno did, and that’s pretty much it, and that’s the extent of knowledge I have when it comes to ambient music. I should actually listen to the Eno records again because it’s been a while.

I really like the idea of tape loops. Looping in the digital realm seems like cheating. It’s a lot more impressive when there’s a machine that can be tricked into playing the same section of tape over and over, and I like how the loop goes outside the machine and through everyday objects in the studio (or home). Chris Walla’s record is interesting to me from this aspect (and he talked about the technical side of recording it and making the loops in Tape Op #111). Musically, I find it hard to relate to, partially because it sounds a lot like Eno’s ambient records, and in fact Walla said in that Tape Op interview that one track is actually him trying to reverse engineer an Eno piece.

I only listened to it once twice so far. In an interview I watched with Terry Riley he said that loops reveal more of themselves and change the more you listen to them. So far it hasn’t revealed much, and a part of me wonders if the fact that he made it with old technology (tape) cornered him into making something that’s already been done.

2. Conrad Schnitzler – Con [1978]

This entry is edited [June 16th, 2016] from how it was originally posted.

It took me a couple of listens to start understanding this record, and since those couple of listens I’ve listened to it probably 20 times. There’s something about this record that even if you don’t initially get it, you want to go back to listen to it. For me, I think what kept drawing me to it was the sounds. It just has really amazing electronic sounds, so I kept going back to listen just for the way it sounds more than anything. I think that the sounds are still my main fascination with the record, but I also enjoy the rhythms and melodies in here.

Schnitzler was in Tangerine Dream (briefly) and in Kluster, and originally I thought this record will sound like Cluster (because Cluster was Kluster minus Conrad Schnitzler), but that doesn’t make sense. Kluster sounded nothing like Cluster, but at the time I initially wrote it, I barely got Kluster. It wasn’t until recently that their records started to click for me. So the point of this detour is to say that Con is actually a continuation of Kluster’s music more than it touching on anything Cluster did. Con is an abstract record, and the tracks don’t have a clear theme. There are melodies and beats, but they are sparse and they’re not meant to drive a song as much as they’re there to drive a feeling or a moment. I’m not sure that makes sense. When I first heard the record it actually reminded me of Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon (see Week 11) in the sense that both are broadening the musical vocabulary. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that musically similar.

3. Tangerine Dream – Zeit [1972]

This entry is also edited [June 16th, 2016] from how it was originally posted.

Originally I said that I couldn’t figure out what to write about this record, and to be honest, I still don’t. I have listened to this record multiple times, but it’s a double album and I don’t always have the time to listen to it all in one sitting, so I end up not listening to it as much as I want.

Musically, I don’t know what to call it. It’s not the krautrock of Neu!, or Can, or Faust, or Kraftwerk. I’m not sure what people mean by kosmische musik (“cosmic music”) but my feeling is that this record falls into this category. The best way I can describe it right now is that this record is like watching a storm. It’s like being somewhere very open, like a field, and watching a storm slowly heading towards you. At first it’s just an image from afar, but then the winds are getting stronger, then the sky is turning grey and the light turns a different color. Then it seems like it should start raining at any moment and maybe there’s a bit of a drizzle, but all of a sudden the storm is gone. It takes a turn right before getting to where you stand and goes in a different direction. That’s what this record feels like to me. There’s a great, long build up, but it’s not really building up to anything big or pompous, it just takes a turn and quiets down.

There’s not a lot more to say about this record except that the instrumentation is pretty cool. No drums (I’m pretty sure), just a bunch or synthesizer and something like four cellos.

4. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville [1993]

I read an interview in an old TapeOp with Brad Wood who recorded this record (produced it too?) He worked with a lot of Chicago rock bands that I like or are related/similar to bands I like. Anyway, it was a cool interview, and I decided it’s finally time to check out Liz Phair.

From what I understand, the record is a response to Exile on Main Street (which I never listened to), a very 90s response in the way the songs are written, recorded, and the way her voice sounds. It didn’t really grab me on a first listen (it’s also very long), but after listening to it I was humming a few songs, so there’s that.

I want to say that I’ll listen to it again, but it is very long, so I doubt it would happen. I do like Liz Phair’s voice, though.

5. La Düsseldorf – La Düsseldorf [1973]

La Dusseldorf is Klaus Dinger’s band (he was in Neu!) with his brother. Of all the krautrock labeled records I’ve been listening to recently, this one jives with what I always thought is considered kraut the most. It’s similar to Neu! but a little more rocking and goofier, but not as intricate.

I’ve listened to it two or three times and I can’t tell if there’s anything else that will reveal itself or if this is it.

6. Ash Ra Tempel – Ash Ra Tempel [1971]

Amboss starts off sounding like Tangerine Dream’s Zeit (see above), but then it turns into a “freakout” jam, or whatever you want to call it. Essentially, it’s a 15 minute guitar solo, and while I love guitar solos, this one is a little uninspiring.

Same thing with Traummaschine, the second track. Starts abstract and ominous, and then after 10-15 minutes there’s the long guitar solo again.

7. Damaged Bug – Cold Hot Plumbs [2015]

This record was mentioned in a thread about krautrock a while back (different from the one I was referring to in the Conrad Schnitzler entry), and I listened to one song and was intrigued.

I would describe this as “current krautrock”. There are other influences in here, some of them I can’t put my finger on exactly, but the drums are all motorik or a variation of it, and every song has a synthesizer playing along. However, the sounds they’re getting, especially out of the synths, are leaving me a little cold. I feel like they went with the first sound you could get out of a Mini Moog. I feel like it would be a whole different record if the sounds were more messed up.

I will have to revisit this one a few more times for those other influences to kick in.

I’d like to mention here that I listened again to Stereolab’s Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements again, and man oh man, I really dig it now. It didn’t click the first few times I listened, but I’m totally in now. I just thought I’d mention it here since I consider Damaged Bug to be modern/current krautrock, and so is Stereolab.

8. Manuel Göttsching – Inventions for Electric Guitar [1975]

I was talking to a friend about how I’ve been listening to krautrock and early electronic music and he suggested I check out Manuel Gottsching’s record New Age of Earth. As I was looking Gottsching up, I saw that he was in Ash Ra Tempel and that he also made the record I’m writing about right now – Inventions for Electric Guitar. Being someone who’s always interested in music that pushes the guitar further, I decided to check Inventions first.

Inventions for guitar is a good way of describing this record. The guitar playing itself isn’t different (and he’s not doing any prepared guitar stuff), but the processing of the guitar – lots of delays and loops and arpeggios, that is different. It’s interesting but I’m also conflicted about it. First, the sounds are sounds you could get out of a synthesizer, and like I said the playing isn’t different than “regular” playing in any meaningful way.

Musically, I don’t know if you ever played around with a guitar and a looping pedal, but it’s easy to corner yourself into boring patterns, and that happens a lot on this record. However, some moments are cool, like from 12:30 until around 17:50 in Pluralis. Quasarsphere as a whole is pretty good.

9. Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry – Symphonie Pour Un Homme Seul [1950]

This is a musique concrete record, and if you don’t know what it is, then go read on Wikipedia because it’ll do better job of explaining it than me. Basically, it’s music that is composed with found sounds and existing music, so essentially it’s a collage. I think it’s easy to discredit it from today’s perspective, because we can record whatever, and then load it into whatever DAW and organize it the way we want. However, this record came out 66 years ago, and all they had were mono tape machines, so it took a lot of foresight and tape splicing to put together each piece. I don’t think it’s wrong to call that composing. It’s just that they were composing with already existing sounds.

Even though this isn’t my first exposure to musique concrete, it is the most avant-garde record I have ever listened to. What makes it so extreme for me is that I cannot follow the narrative. I don’t even know what is the narrative! I think music always has narrative, and this idea is very instinctual (just thought of it) for me and not something I can put into words yet, so I won’t even try. But anyway, music always has a narrative, and it’s not the lyrics or a narrative the listener can follow like a story. It’s something about the song that keeps it propagating. Sometimes I start listening to something and I want to know where it’s going, because the narrative seems interesting and I’m not familiar with it. Sometimes I start listening to something and I know where it’s going so I turn it off – the narrative is boring. With this record, I don’t know what is the narrative, but I believe there is one for two reasons. One is that from what I read Schaeffer was a smart guy, so he probably didn’t just whip something together without giving it much thought. The second is that the technology of the time was so limiting that there’s no way someone could compose something like this without a clear idea of what they’re doing.

I think that intent is what separates avant-garde from fake avant-garde. Everyone can hit random keys on a piano and say “here, I made an avant-garde recording”, kind of like Mirror Father Mirror. You can program a computer to do that. But when there’s intent to stretch boundaries, and there’s a particular process for stretching those boundaries, then it becomes interesting.

So yeah, no idea what the narrative is here, but I’ll keep listening.

10. Perry and Kingsley – Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight On The Moog [1971]

As I was finally getting Stereolab last week, I read about about Transient Random-Noise Bursts and it mentioned something about this album. I think they sampled something from it. Anyway, I know some of Jean-Jacques Perry’s music so I jumped in.

This is electronic music in the sense that it’s music being played with synthesizers. The actual music, though, isn’t different from pop music of the time, and in fact most of the tracks on the record are covers of famous songs. This is the same criticism that the west coast synthesizer people (San Francisco Tape Music Center) had for Wendy Carlos’s Switched on Bach. Playing classics on a synthesizers isn’t expanding music.