If the entirety of music is a vast cathedral, then I often find myself drawn to the candlelight of its obscure cult niches. One of those places of worship particularly dear to my heart lies at the point where the arches of Jazz, Metal and Noise experimentation meet. So with the first of the four Advent Sundays approaching, let me invite you there with not a single, nor a double, but a quadruple review! The festively golden thread - or your personal Santa Chaos for this holiday season - is a German guy with the common-or-garden name Jörg Schneider.
Schneider who has been responsible for the drums on the formidable jazz metal album Dual Gaia by Roji earlier this year, is an avid collaborator and has dedicated a whole ongoing series of releases to encounters with one other musician each time. The last four of those works have all been put out in the short span between September 11th and October 2nd, so it’s actually appropriate and not just my personal Christmas gimmick to review them together.
SCHNEIDER SHIROISHI The first album features another member of Roji, Japanese-American saxophone player Patrick Shiroishi. This man has a lot of practice creating music on his own, as I had the pleasure to witness this October when I saw him open for Sumac on tour - just him, his horn and a load of pedals. From that perpective it may not be a great surprise, what richness of sound he unleashes only accompanied by one drummer. Of course it helps that the album also has a fantastic production that feels as if you’re sitting right between both players, being exposed to every little breath and click and scratch, to even the most minimal nuance of their performances. But if there are only two instruments and they already just sound phenomal on their own, there’s probably only so much that could possibly go wrong. Musically we get a dynamic mix of longer and shorter improvisations with lots of Peter Brötzmann flavours and a restless drumkit constantly burying us with the glorious resonance of its toms and snare. And while each track contributes pure Free Jazz greatness, my personal favorite has to be the nine minute closer “Maniacs In The Fourth Dimension”, in which Schneider swirls his skins and cymbals in the style of an Elvin Jones solo, while Shiroishi remains a completely calm and soulful counterpoint. Minimalistic and beautiful.
SCHNEIDER DAHL Did I say these albums were duets? “Evil Knows Best” immediately jumpscares you with a brutal cascade of Merzbow-ish electronics, white noise, wild guitar slides and baritone sax blows. At least that’s what it sounds like. But actually Jazz-madman Tim Dahl is just playing bass here. Or is he? If there wasn’t his equally mental “zero overdubs” solo album as a point of reference, I wouldn’t be sure at all what could be effect and what overdub. It’s a blur on an album that feels like the soundtrack to being strapped to the engine of a flying jet aircraft. That’s not a situation you can easily escape from, so accordingly most of the tracks here are long and relentless. Following the narration of the song titles this predicament can only be resolved by you crashing down as a “Headless Body” and later on undead “Tombstone Walker”. Hell, even the short three minutes of “Knightly Victim” won’t grant us a breather, but rather bludgeon us like a Dillinger Escape Plan warm-up excercise. Wild and superbly cacaphonous!
SCHNEIDER KRISTOF By now there’s no doubt that Jörg Schneider is probably even drumming in a feverish frenzy while he sleeps, so don’t expect the energy level of these cooperations to cease any time soon! The “Scenic Fragments”, he is jamming with Parisian guitarist Michel Kristof, however return to a much lighter feeling. The guitar tone is as reminscent of Bill Frisell’s legendary work with Naked City as are the six strings’ many spontanous fast course changes. Most of these seven tracks are quite funky, yet in a joyfully deconstructed way. Clattering, glitchy, bubbly freeform fun.
SCHNEIDER BAKER On the final duet Schneider adds some robotic mannerisms to his dynamic playing and moves a little bit deeper into the mists to give room to an eerie atmosphere of wandering through the overgrown ruins of our industrialized civilisation by nightfall. The fitting ambient guitar tone is provided by none other than Nadja’s Aidan Baker. This album undoubtly is a cousin of Baker’s solo work Nalepa and the Nadja release of the same name. You can also find a similar constellation of guitar drones and drum action on the three recent collaborations between thisquietarmy and Voivod drummer Away. So if you dig those, Schneider Baker could be your optimal starting point into exploring Jörg Schneider’s collaborations.
Based on the same principle this quadriga of releases is an excellent showcase of how drastically one variant can change an equation. Each album is an exciting sonic adventure on its own, but understood as a contiguous body of work - like the uniform cover artworks suggest - these quarter pieces shape an even more impressive whole.
Coming back to the approaching advent I would say that four records of rather avantgarde improvisations are plenty of music to explore during the pre-Christmas period. So why not make a deal? You do so - and I will tell Father Schneider to spare you the rod?! Done!