Marcus Schmickler with Hayden Chisholm
Häpna H.32, CD
2 tracks, 45 minutes
Marcus Schmickler is internationally well known in heterogeneous contexts of contemporary music. He is closely associated with the a-Musik label and over the last years he has worked in different fields of electronic, instrumental, improvised, experimental and new music. His latest releases feature choir and chamber music pieces, a new computer music composition as well as a new release under the banner of Pluramon with Julee Cruise. His continuous collaborations feature settings with analogue synth wiz Thomas Lehn and British pianist John Tilbury. He is also member of various ensembles such as MIMEO and Pluramon. He has received numerous prestigious prizes and his work has been represented all over the globe. He lives in Cologne.
Hayden Chisholm is a saxophonist and a composer internationally well known for his work with the artist Rebecca Horn and as a performer in jazz and contemporary music. Originating from New Zealand where he won the Young Achievers Award, he studied music and philosophy in Germany, India and Japan and has since performed at major festivals all over the world. He currently performs with Burnt Friedman, Root 70 and Pluramon as well as creating music for several of Rebecca Horn's installations. Although only 31 he has spent 8 years of his life on concert tours. He currently lives in Barcelona and Cologne.
By now Marcus Schmickler should be a man of high reputation - at least in my book he is. His rock work with Pluramon, improvising matters with Mimeo (as well as with various project with separate members), but also composing in his own right, such as his excellent work 'Demos' (see Vital Weekly 543) - he can do it all, with great ease. Here he works with Hayden Chisholm, who plays saxophone and who has worked with Rebecca Horn and with jazz and contemporary music. On 'Amazing Daze' he plays bagpipes and sho. The title piece is for Phil Niblock, while 'Infinity On The Shape Of A Poodle' is for Björk Gudmundsdottir. The title piece is much a like a Niblock piece: a wall of sound drone of sustaining sounds. But there is a main difference: whereas Niblock cuts out the actual breathing of the player, Schmickler leaves it in, but not every time it is necessary to blow the bagpipes, but with regular intervals. What Schmickler does, credited with computer and electronics, is mainly, I guess, in the amplification of the instruments, the recording (layering the sound sources) and mixing. 'Amazing Daze' is powerful piece of music. 'Infinity On The Shape Of A Poodle' is much lighter of tone, played on the higher end of the musical scale, and probably the piece played with the sho. It sounds more like a reflective piece of music, less like a treat like the previous piece does, where the sounds get so much knitted together that it could almost be like a church organ or even, as the piece progresses, piercing feedback like sounds. It works not as well as the first piece, but throughout this is an excellent Schmickler work.
FdW, Vital Weekly
On the Hapna website 'Amazing Daze' is described as a drone journey - and who am I to disagree? Many of you will have come across Marcus Schmickler before, and apart from having an almost Dickensian name, the man has wowed us with his work under the Pluramon moniker, most recently together with Lynchian chanteuse Julee Cruise (new album out soon folks!). Hayden Chisholm is likely a less familiar name, but his glorious saxophone tones have graced the records of Burnt Friedman and David Sylvain and many more, and he is also a renowned composer in his own right, so with this in mind there are no doubt expectations for this meeting of musical behemoths. Typical then that 'Amazing Daze' is possibly the oddest thing either artist has put their name to, and also typical that it's pretty darned astounding. The thing with drone music is it can go either way - it can either be involving, exciting and gloriously haunting or totally boring. I'm well aware that most of the general public would call a good majority of drone music boring anyway, but there is drone and drone, luckily 'Amazing Daze' falls into the drone category (that works better when it's spoken... trust me). Made up of Chisholm's Bagpipes and Sho playing, processed by Schmickler and electronically spruced up, this is a veritable masterclass in the genre, no doubt taking notes from such milestones as Pauline Oliveros' crucial 'Accordion and Voice' (which was recently re-issued on Important). With this kind of music restraint and subtlety is the key, and these aren't skills usually associated with bagpipes (possibly the most loathed of all instruments?), yet the opening and title track (dedicated to drone king Phil Niblock) shows that even with an instrument this brash it is possible to make the most haunting, trembling sounds. The natural oscillation of the instrument proves to be an alluring focal point of the listening as you begin to take notice of every breath, every slight variation in the sound, and what should realistically be static becomes anything but. As the track becomes dissonant towards the second half, the mind begins to focus less on the dissonance itself but on the character of the sound, and how it plays with the original sound. The second track (dedicated to none other than Bjork!) is made up of what sounds like Sho and electronics and is much more obviously beautiful, all cascading harmonies and effortless twinkles, but never ceases in its philosophy. This is the sort of music that almost commands a certain amount of meditation, it is anything but background music and demands total attention - and if you give it, you'll be rewarded hugely. Excellent stuff.