Atom™ - Liedgut (Raster-Noton)
An Uwe Schmidt LP on Raster-Noton possibly sounds more exciting than the reality, given the rather anarchic and flamboyant qualities that Herr Schmidt has displayed throughout a near two-decade long musical career, and the somewhat staid and dare I say it, po-faced digitalism of Carsten Nicolai and co.
Schmidt himself has been relatively quiet compared to recent years, wheeling out the post-modern irony of Senor Coconut and dabbling here and there with ancient acid, whilst Raster-Noton have gone from strength to strength, virtually occupying a genre with the likes of Ikeda and Nicolai generating much interest with their crunching microscopic analysis of the potential of electronic music. It’s as if both are going down very separate paths.
“Liedgut” then is something of a minor surprise, playing on elder Germanic influences to produce an album that harnesses the futuristic static of drone pioneers such as Nicolai, and the with the irreverent humour of Kraftwerk, of whom Florian Schneider makes a brief appearance at the end, contributing a classic children’s poem through his trusty robovox. Schneider and Schmidt share the same sort of humour, the former apparently somewhat enthusiastic about the latter’s Senor Coconut project.
The most apparent and rather obvious influence are the tone poems of Radioactivity, with small melodic passages echoing that album’s playful quality in amongst relatively long lulls of relative silence and white static squalor. Schmidt places emphasis on a singular sound, his voice being manipulated by all manner of sounds and the pace never picks up beyond the somnolent speed of a lullaby. The album itself is short by modern standards, but I’m all for works that don’t outstay their welcome, and like Schneider and co, Schmidt concentrates on quality. Here instead of the long drawn out repetition that we’ve come to expect from Raster-Noton, Schmidt conjures up small clusters of melody that drawn one back to Liedgut with repeated listens, and working in noise in a dry and sardonic way, most notably with a mobile phone signal that I’m sure got exactly the sort of reaction he was looking for.
If you’re expecting the sort of minor panoramic vistas or explosive digitalism that Raster-Noton has become notorious for, then Liedgut will inevitably disappoint. Schmidt has created a piece that echoes and reinforces the rich heritage of German experimentation, inflecting it with a hefty slice of wry humour that he and Florian Schneider have become famous for. Whilst not exactly a dramatic footnote in contemporary electronic music, it perhaps indicates that the current crop of budding laptop musicians have a long way to go in inflecting their music with that all important ingredient, humanity.