Today, the word “extreme” is used to market everything from detergents (“witness the extreme clean!”) to alternative sports festivals (i.e. the X games). Perhaps no commodity is so deserving of this title, however, than the music of Otto von Schirach. With his four albums and numerous collaborations and remixes, the half Cuban / half German electronic artist has made a name for himself by combining bombastic instrumentals, frenetic, eccentric beats, and zany, often obscene humor. On his latest effort, Maxipad Detention, Schirach is just as manic and eclectic as ever, combining such genres as noise, gore grind and breakcore into one dizzying sonic stew.
Maxipad Detention came about when its creator sent a collection of demo tracks to Mike Patton, the famous experimental rocker / co-owner of Ipecac Recordings. Patton selected his favorite of these tracks and then released them as an album. The result is a record that resembles the music one of Patton’s former bands, Mr. Bungle, might have made if they had collaborated with Skinny Puppy and recorded an album in the middle of an active construction zone. Over the course of 18 manic tracks with deliberately absurd titles such as “Cantaloupe Syphilis Gravy” and “Menstrual Dolphin Communication”, Schirach reveals his unique interpretation of Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) which is simultaneously danceable, visceral, and downright unsettling.
Maxipad Detention is not for squeamish listeners. On the album, Schirach appears to be consciously creating music that will be repulsive to most listeners, and he definitely succeeds in this task. His beats are often dominated by complex polyrhythms which are buried underneath the screeching sounds of machinery. His sense of humor can be just as abrasive. Even open-minded listeners will likely cringe at the track, “Submarine Mammal Milk”, in which Schirach conjures bestiality by combining sex noises, orgasmic moans and animal sounds.
Those who are able to withstand Schirach’s sonic attacks will be rewarded with a very unique listening experience. Schirach’s production style might be described as encompassing “everything but the kitchen sink, but with special emphasis on the disgusting and incredibly noisy”. This style is most successful on the opening tracks of Maxipad Detention, such as “Teabagging the Dead”, a throbbing dance number propelled by pumping bass and gurgling, guttural sound effects. Schirach seems to have an almost magical ability to hear grooves in the sounds of everyday life, and he demonstrates this ability on the track “Alligator Waltz” when he samples a dog barking in time with the rhythm suggested by a jackhammer. Other tracks have similar moments, and they prove Schirach to be a masterful craftsman capable of combining disparate noises into clever beats.
Unfortunately, Maxipad Detention is just as frustrating as it is interesting. Although Schirach demonstrates considerable talent, he fails to use it to his full potential. He is so obsessed with his scatological shtick that he misses the opportunity to make great music. Although Schirach draws from a wide variety of musical styles, he filters them all through a screen of noise, animal noises and gross sounds, and this approach becomes overwhelming. Even though Schirach shows some variety in the last half of the album by utilizing more cerebral beats and laying off some of the more abrasive noises, few listeners will have the patience to listen to these tracks with the full attention they demand.
Fans of extreme music will not be disappointed with Maxipad Detention. For all its faults, the record does demonstrate its producer’s creativity and skill. People who crave raunchy humor with their dance music or listeners fascinated with the sounds of construction machinery should pick up the album right away. Everyone else should listen before they buy and decide whether they have the patience and the fortitude to endure a whole album of Schirach’s music.
// Notes from the Road
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