[22 July 2004]
Schneider TM is a mysterious gentleman living in Berlin who makes strange glitch-country hybrid songs that play with the contradictions implicit in singing lackadaisical, direct lyrics (often involving profanity) with warm country instrumentation, then chucking the whole thing into a blender, distorting the vocals through a vocoder and dropping stuttering pneumatic beats all over the wonky result. He’s been putting out material for some time now, to the quiet acclaim of those who like their folktronica with a bit of alienation and attitude, has worked with fellow Berliner Barbara Morgenstern (who remixed the first Postal Service effort, “The Dream Of Evan & Chan”) and was enlisted by Kings Of Convenience’s Erlend Oye to provide the backing for one track on the latter’s solo album. So he knows the right people, although he’s too willfully bizarre to have had a crack at their audiences yet. I don’t think this record will be the one to make his sardonically commercial moniker into anything like a household name, which is pity because amongst all the madness he can freak some pretty funky methodology, so it won’t be for want of my support.
Reconfigures is a collection of his remixes, most of them collected from past singles, of artists ranging from the well known (Lamb, Lambchop, and the Faint) to the obscure (the majority of the disc). Whilst not actually mixed, the wildly varying nature of the originals is funneled through his signature skewed approach in a fashion that leaves them as complementary variations without diluting their essences. It’s been some time since we’ve heard anything from downtempo mix lords Kruder & Dorfmeister, yet Reconfigures works best if taken as one of their “have vibe, will travel” trips, albeit one of a sharper and more anarchic nature than K&D would ever dream of offering up as the soundtrack to a quiet joint on the sofa.
Not that some of the artists don’t come off as quite charmingly addled as it is. The opening country stroll of Pulseprogramming’s “Suck & Run”, with its rolling thumbsnap of a beat and breezy harmonica, comes with some unbothered profanity and the bizarrely appealing chorus “I wish I had a Hoover / As a big as a Range Rover”. From this he tips into the burbling slinkiness of his take on Margo’s “Take Me”, before drifting into his rejigging of Lamb’s “Wonder”, his backwards-winding sample and flurries of static setting off the strings and Lou Robinson’s voice to marvellous effect. If only Lamb had enlisted him to help out on their last, rather bland album. We then bounce through the worrying punkfunk of Rechenzentrum before sliding to a halt on a drift of petering static, only to be met by a lurching bass tone surge and a fragment of a reggae vocal. It’s Patrice, a reggae singer who’s been doing well for himself in Germany recently (and incidentally went to the school—Salem—my father now teaches at), and on this Turtle Bay Country Club track, “Heaven TM”, he duets with a lady known as Onejiru to lovely effect as Schneider allows the song to settle into a pretty acoustic beach wander before bringing back that bass and rubbing it into the groove a little.
Elsewhere he adds squelch to the menace of the Faint’s “Conductor”, takes Philip Boa & The Voodooclub’s “Eugene” on a gloriously expansive trip into the stratosphere of soft electro-tinged click house, lets saucy siren-in-waiting Ruby drip all over a deliciously laidback funk groove whilst she purs “Butterrrr / Running over me” and turns Lambchop’s wonderful “The New Cobweb Summer” into a lysergic trundle through a sunny glade, as Kurt Wagner’s dried cigar leaf of a voice reflects hopefully on “the link between profound and pain” whilst accompanied by a procession of shiny metal insects, occasionally pausing for a little tuba-led tango shuffle. By the time he closes out proceedings with the Kompakt-esque house groove of Turner’s “Multiorgel”, it is impossible not to be won over by the appealingly tactile glow of the ever-unpredictable reconfigurations assembled here, and it’s a measure of his taste and skill as a remixer that the lesser known material shines just as brightly as the recognisable songs he’s buffed up.
A spluttering, cooing, pulsing, strutting, soaring, coarsely vibrant and utterly unexpected delight. All those recently converted to synthpop by Give Up should check their minds in for reconfiguration forthwith.