thu 03/12/2020

Album: Conrad Schnitzler & Frank Bretschneider - Con-Struct | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Conrad Schnitzler & Frank Bretschneider - Con-Struct

Album: Conrad Schnitzler & Frank Bretschneider - Con-Struct

Complete abstraction engenders a bizarre sense of familiarity

When does the avant-garde become folk? Both of the participants in this album have certainly been on the very cutting edge of sound-making, on multiple occasions.

When does the avant-garde become folk? Both of the participants in this album have certainly been on the very cutting edge of sound-making, on multiple occasions. Conrad Schnitzler was a student of radical artist Joseph Beuys and leading light in the utopian thinking and radical soundmaking of 1970s West Germany as a member of Tangerine Dream and Kluster. Frank Bretschneider was, bravely, an underground musician in East Germany in the 1980s, in partnership with Olaf Bender – and, again with Bender and later with Carsten Nicolai, in unified Germany in the 1990s and on was responsible for some of the most conceptually rigorous electronica with the Rastermusic and raster-noton labels.

There’s something about the music they make together here, though, that seems like it’s less about pushing envelopes or finding unexplored musical space, and more about delighting in something they both know extremely well. Which is not to say it’s simple or obvious: this is completely abstract synth and computer music, without any conventional rhythm, harmony or repetition. You couldn’t put any genre on it. It’s not old-school either – the complexity of the swoops, thrums, boinks and fizzes here resemble the fearsomely high-tech Autechre and Sote at least as much as they do any older electronic music.

But somehow it feels traditional, though. It feels part of a lineage – one with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer and David Tudor, with Kluster and Holger Czukay. Schnitzler and Bretschneider are genuinely experimenting here, letting complex sounds fold into themselves or dissipate into equally complex spaces, clearly improvising as they hear the results. But that improvisation, that experimentation, are done in familiar ways, and the sounds, however ostentatiously weird and abstracted from our day to day acoustic reality, have a wonderful, reassuring familiarity as a result. Could it be that this digital sonic abstraction is actually becoming normalised in our increasingly digital and increasingly abstract lives?

@joemuggs

Listen to a Con-Struct album sampler:

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