Henrik Schwarz: Live

One of the more enjoyable house CDs I've heard in quite a while.

Henrik Schwarz


Label: !K7
US Release Date: 2007-10-02
UK Release Date: 2007-10-29

Henrik Schwarz has been around for a while, but chances are good that a lot of people hadn't heard of him until last year when his contribution to the venerable DJ Kicks series was released by !K7 Records. Just about one year after that particular release, Schwarz is back with !K7 for the release of Live, a rather unusual album that nevertheless succeeds as one of the more enjoyable house CDs I've heard in a while.

I say "unusual" because there is something definitely unique about the way this album is put together. As you might surmise from the title, the album has been recorded live... but not quite in the manner of an actual "live" album. Many of the tracks here are Schwarz's own -- those from other artists have all been significantly transformed to fit -- and they were recorded live at various venues across the globe. Sixteen cities are listed in the liner notes, and sure enough, there are 16 tracks on Live. But the tracks have been compiled together in the studio to create a seamless mix. The result is undoubtedly an odd hybrid. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because the record sounds pretty damn good. However it was created, the result is a pretty seamless mix of jazz-inflected deep house and minimal techno.

It's pretty hard to mistake Schwarz's catholic intentions when the first track on his CD is by none other than Sun Ra. "Lullaby for Realville" begins the album with a slow shuffle, languorous horns softly playing over slinky percussion. And then, things change -- the song is slowly altered until the basic shape of Sun Ra's tune has become churning deep house. The radically transformed "Lullaby" segues into Kuniyuki's "Earth Beats", a slightly mordant bit of minor key menace that offsets portentous piano triads against a churning bassline. The end result is that while the tempo is generally up, the mood is subdued, contemplative. Most of the tracks run towards the long side, and over the course of five or six minutes Schwarz gives the listener a lot of material to play with. It's easy to see how these tracks worked in their original live contexts, with constant reinterpretation and jazzy improvisation turning what could have been bog-standard house and techno tracks into something far more interesting.

It's also interesting to see the lines between modern techno and house being blurred. A track like Schwarz's own "Kalimba Dance" could have fit on this year's Kompakt Total compilation, with its clipped high hats and almost subliminal bass tones. But the song doesn't stay in that mode -- the manic kalimba (or kalimba-like) elements grow in complexity, creating increasingly challenging rhythms that allow Schwarz to introduce a Latin theme. The next track, a collaboration with Ame & Dixon entitled "Where We At", builds on the basis of "Kalimba Dance" but adds a more pronounced beat and conventional house structure. Everything gets thrown together and the result, as throughout the album, is a rather intricate patchwork that maintains the spontaneous, improvised feel of modern jazz while never losing sight of the driving rhythmical imperative of house.

One of the criticisms frequently leveled against jazz-influenced house music -- and I think in many cases that it's a fair criticism -- is that house producers simply appropriate surface attributes of jazz without really interfacing with the music on a deeper level. And, really, how many times have we all heard house songs that use tiny samples of old jazz records to recondition what would otherwise be absolutely unmemorable? Schwarz doesn't do that.

The biggest surprise on the album is undoubtedly his remix of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" -- probably not one of the first songs you expected to hear in this context. But it turns out to be a really great song, and it succeeds because Schwarz knows how to create something that works on a completely different level than the original. He takes Brown's impassioned voice and lays it atop an off-kilter microhouse beat adorned with repeating melodic refrains and shifting percussion. The music continues implacably underneath Brown's vocal, adding and changing different elements with no overt connection to the vocal movement. The effect is more Fela Kuti than James Brown, and it's one of the very best remixes I've heard in ages.

The entire album is pockmarked with interesting surprises put across with extraordinarily subtle effect. This is not an album intended for easy listening. This is a disc that rewards close scrutiny spread across multiple replays.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.