Three Berlin-based avant-garde guitarists have teamed up for this album. Their names are Günter Schickert, Jochen Arbeit, and Dirk Dresselhaus. Dresselhaus has been recording under the moniker of Schneider TM for better part of 20 years now. So this release is conveniently billed as Arbeit Schickert Schneider. In other words, ASS! Get it? Ah, that second ‘S’ had to come from somewhere, but it made the whole thing so very worth it.
In all seriousness, an album title like ASS belies the sounds found within the album. First, there are the histories of all involved to consider. Günter Schickert, age 66 as of this writing, rode the krautrock wave during the genre’s ‘70s heyday. Jochen Arbeit, age 55, has been a member of Geniale Dilletanten, Die Haut, and Einstürzende Neubauten over the past 30-odd years. Dirk Dresselhaus, age 46, gradually migrated from noisy indie rock to electronic experimentation over the course of the ‘90s. All three came of age in different musical eras and cut their respective teeth in different environments. Yet these differences remain only skin deep when compared to the restless creativity that drives all three musicians. ASS is very much a case of natural musical kinship in action.
Secondly, ASS also signifies an organic meeting of some very inorganic elements. Schickert, Arbeit, and Dresselhaus don’t play their guitar so much as they let the guitars play themselves. The strings buzz, sustain, feedback through the amplifiers, and find new voices via electronic manipulation. The music adheres to no recognizable structure, though the tracks are conveniently broke apart in the album’s first half. Everyone is just filling in the space in whatever way they know how, be it through beautiful noise or ugly dissonance. The tracks on side one slowly rise in degrees, starting with “37°”, ending with “41°”, and leaving you with a remarkable sense of serenity considering that you just heard three electric guitars making a racket for 22 minutes straight.
Different toys come out to play on side two, like a balafon, a conch, and an mbria. In contrast to the nebulous sounds of side one, “Acetyl” and “Salicyl” ride on an actual beat propelled by acoustic instruments. They are, however, no less woozy in mood. You’ll still find yourself wandering in a haze on “Acetyl” with only a conch melody—a conch melody?— and a mbria to lead the way. Only “Säure”, the last track on ASS, shares the same weightless and dimensionless properties as the guitar free-play on the first half.
Arbeit Schickert Schneider may have named their album ASS, but the music belongs in deep space (I guess some may ask what exactly the difference is). If you ever thought that krautrock would be better once freed from its already-loose restraints, then the trio Arbeit Schickert Schneider is definitely your thing. If you think avant-gardists should shut up and “learn” to “play” their guitars, then steer clear of the ASS. To you, it’ll only stink. Oh, somebody please stop me.
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