Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

JULY 26, 1999: 

Schneider TM Moist, (Mute/City Slang)

To Rococo Rot The Amateur View, (Mute/City Slang)

Achtung, all you lovers of precise, electronically produced instrumental groove. There's something going on in Germany that you may wish to investigate. Britain's New Musical Express has elevated it to the status of an officially recognized scene by dubbing it the "Teutonic Boom," so you just know it's got to be important. (Note: If you purchase German imports other than beer, you are perhaps already fully apprised of this phenomenon; as is often the case with hip Euro-types, the Teutonic Boomers' stuff has only recently been released Stateside proper.)

A not-so-loose collection of Deutschland bands/artists (Tarwater, Mouse On Mars, Notwist, Kreidler, Schneider TM, and To Rococo Rot, to name those with the highest profile) comprise this latest edition of that which Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream inaugurated so long ago. A few of these crews sport interchangeable band members and are generally supportive of one another (sounds like a scene to me).

Like so much that's christened the "next big thing," these artists are marketed as having a brand-new sound. But, to be blunt, they really don't have such a new sound. Obscure and semi-obscure electronic musicians have been doing this kind of thing for years. Does that fact undermine the Boomers' legitimacy? No, there's plenty of room for this stripe of electronica. I'm talking about the artsy stuff, the kind designed to engage the head more than move the butt.

In the studio, Schneider TM is actually just one guy, Dirk Dresselhaus. The ballyhoo of his promo sheet alleges that he has trouble sleeping because he's "so intrigued by the different tonal qualities of every drop of rain on the window, every squeak the bedsprings make." And you know, I think I can actually buy that. Here is an artist who considers his most important performance to date to be a gig which found him surrounded by synchronized swimmers in paddling pools.

Today's technology empowers modern individual musicians to proceed with the realization of personal vision in ways not available to most of their predecessors, and this power to concentrate on such vision can bring about results one wouldn't necessarily expect from a composer who's involved in striking compromises with collaborators and label executives. At his best, Dresselhaus demonstrates the value of that kind of approach to composing and recording. (At his worst, he sounds like one of the Kraftwerk boys' nephews who just discovered how to generate a lock-tight beat on uncle's gear; fortunately, these are Moist's rarer moments.)

The relatively detached and highly organized character of Dresselhaus' CD tends to give one the sneaking feeling that he might at any time jack it up to the electro hell-raising level. And he comes pretty close to committed angst now and again, though such moments often end up sounding more like the confused reiterations of a slightly silly person as heard from within a malfunctioning automobile engine (you read it here first).

To Rococo Rot's The Amateur View is as controlled as Schneider TM's Moist, and definitely more ambient in its techno styling. I can imagine hearing some of this music on New Age electronica showcases like Music From The Hearts Of Space, though I'm sure the H.O.S. program directors would consider most of it to be a bit spunky for their tastes. To be sure, these three Berlin-based "post-rockers" seem very interested in weirdly implementing effects and samples so as to make your circuits glow nice and warm.

Both of these CDs pulsate with minimalistic repetition, a feature certain to please those who insist upon going into a hypnotic state every time they listen to music. (Obviously, this same aspect drives some music fans utterly nuts. Those people should consider themselves duly warned.) Likewise, both To Rococo Rot and Schneider TM enjoy mixing toyish mechanical sounds with vintage and state-of-the-art electronic tools of the trade, a combination of tones and textures which tends to draw more attention to their similarities than to their differences.

Unless you're dripping new to this kind of music (and ready for it), these CDs probably won't change your life. They might very well freshen it up, though.

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