Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

cover art

Schneider TM

Guitar Sounds

(Bureau B; US: 29 Oct 2013; UK: 14 Oct 2013)

There are a few basic questions that everyone should keep in mind when sampling the new Schneider TM record Guitar Sounds: a.) How much do I like relatively abstract, ambient, experimental, drone-type music?  b.) When listening to music, abstract or otherwise, do I need the piece to come to some sort of climax, even if that climax is subtle and won through steely nerved patience? c.) Do I require my abstract/ambient/drone music to be startlingly original; should it really live up to that overused but inescapable adjective experimental?

I will attempt to answer these questions on my own behalf, and then attempt to suggest how they might relate to Guitar Sounds. Regarding question a.) I like relatively abstract, ambient, experimental, drone-type music a great deal. On any given Wednesday afternoon or early Sunday morning, I can be found listening to those kick-ass old Eno and Fripp collaborations, or basking in Fennesz’s all-encompassing glow. Schneider TM’s more recent works certainly works within this very general framework, but I am not convinced that he has found his own distinctive musical voice yet. Regarding question b.) There are times when I am okay with music that just wanders aimlessly into nothingness, but the best noise and/or ambient music usually hits some kind of giddy high point that pushes the listener right over the edge. Guitar Sounds does not have many of these as most of the tracks kind of just noodle around and then move on to the next one. Regarding question c.) Although I do not require something as subjective and probably unattainable as originality, I do desire a sense of distinctiveness and flavor to music of this ilk. Experimental music can make you feel like you are gazing straight into the artist’s stormy, festering brain, exposed to whatever beautiful or god-awful stuff is living in there. With Guitar Sounds, I tend to feel more like I am gazing into Schneider TM’s record collection rather than his brooding, Teutonic brain.

I think that it is absolutely, top-shelf wonderful that music not beholden to traditional notions of melody, structure, or musicality is available to those of us who are interested in such things. In this, our glorious postmodern digital world of art and commerce, some guy from Bajram Curri in Northern Albania with a blender, a few marbles, a decent internet connection, and a bone to pick with the world of sound can get his unholy racket heard all over the world. I think this is awesome; I can’t wait to hear what that big green marble of his sounds like when it finally explodes about twenty-five minutes into the recording. But the downside of all this cool experimentation is that much of the music and/or sound art that is produced leaves us feeling pretty ho-hum. The small percentage of ambient/noise/experimental music that really hits me in my sweet spot can leave me weeping and peeing myself with joy, but Schneider TM’s stuff has yet to produce this reaction in me. Although Guitar Sounds is often pretty, and sometimes interesting, it usually feels somewhat conventional in a family of music that is supposed to be emphatically unconventional. If you are interested in the guitar as an instrument, and are somewhat new to the world of experimental music, Guitar Sounds might be just what you are looking for. So I feel like Schneider TM might be moving towards something big and crazy, but he has not gotten there yet. Maybe he should pay that dude down in Bajram Curri a visit? They can see if his guitar can fit in that blender. It could be great. I will be listening.


Benjamin Hedge Olson is a writer, ethnographer, scholar, and teacher based in Seattle, WA. He holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and an MA in Popular Culture from Bowling Green State University.

Related Articles
26 Nov 2012
Cranes, and trucks and all manner of industrial beasties get their chance to make some racket on the new Schneider TM offering.
10 May 2007
The third full-length from German producer Schneider TM achieves a fevered pitch of bustling electronica, but often sacrifices simple pop objectives along the way.
By Matt Eberhart
19 Aug 2002
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2014 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.