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Music Review: Big Robot & Conrad Schnitzler – Horror Odyssee

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This will not be your standard CD review, where the reviewer tells you what s/he liked, or not, about the CD, along with some comments about the music. It’s impossible to lay out in a brief review what this music is or is not, and what one or two listenings might impart to the listener. I tried to provide a sketch of this music, which should be sufficient for you to get a small taste, enough so that you’ll seek out more. If you’re adventurous and enjoy exploration, I think you’ll find Conrad Schnitzler’s compositions interesting at least, and perhaps enjoyable. If you’re stuck in one genre of music, you probably won’t.

Sonic anarchy: that’s what Schnitzler’s music can be. It can also be near-dead calm, underpinned with symphonic serenity. Both can happen within the same movement, yet it doesn’t sound incongruous.

Each new Schnitzler recording or performance is inevitably a completely new experience for the creator as well as the listener. And because it may be played differently from one time to the next, it can be a totally new experience each time. Schnitzler once said that his music “is like the piece[s] of a jigsaw [puzzle], but the jigsaw doesn’t have just one way of being put together, it has limitless ways and the final picture that is created can be disturbing, fragmented, pleasant, peaceful, tonal, atonal … anything!”

To properly understand Schnitzler or his music, one needs to read some background, which I hope to lay out in subsequent articles. This background will take on the form of an occasional series of articles, under the heading of “Krautrock and 1960s Berlin,” as well as in later CD reviews. Schnitzler’s history in music would be impossible to lay out in a brief CD review, so I won’t even try just now. Google the keywords below for additional details.

Schnitzler collaborated with Big Robot for this CD.  You’ll get plenty of hits if you Google Schnitzler’s name, but very few for Big Robot.  Here are some details I turned up on Big Robot–a Norwegian group, not to be confused with the American group of the same name. Big Robot is new to me, so what I’ve managed to learn is from the Internet. The information available on the Web is sketchy at best, and I’ve received nothing from the company which published this record. However, I did find this quote by the group:

We are guided by NO restricting theories, NO harmonic boundaries, NO compulsive reliance on melodies (in fact, we shun them almost totally) nor any concept of meeting up to the taste or preferences of a market or even an audience. This music was produced for the sake of itself. There is no concept but the CON-cept.

Which makes them fit right in with Schnitzler.

Big Robot & Conrad Schnitzler’s Horror Odyssee, as was much of Schnitzler’s work, is an assault on the senses. But this is music you taste, feel and smell, and to see it, all you need to do is close your eyes and let your mind follow the notes, the noise, the klang! You’ll hear the industrial, you’ll hear the symphonic, and you’ll hear the experimental and the experimetal. You’ll feel, taste and see the anger, the frustration, the exquisite pleasure, as well as the intrigue and the terror. There will be periods of slowly growing dread, and fear. All of this and more will consume your senses.

There will be times of serenity, and you’ll hear the peaceful, quiet ping! ping! of a lanyard as it ricochets off a metal flagpole in a gentle tropical breeze. You’ll hear the soft zephyr, and equally, you’ll feel the macabre slowly overtaken by the dread.

It’s a lot like life, unless you’re the Casper Milquetoast type.

I mentioned that there’s a scarcity of information available on the Web on the Norwegian group, Big Robot. I’ll be reviewing additional Schnitzler music plus I’ll be commenting on his continued influence on music in Europe and the world in the near future. I expect to have additional information on Big Robot at that time. So far, however, some of what I’ve turned up can be found here,
here, and here.

To find more information on Kluster, one of Schnitzler’s earlier groups, and much more about Berlin’s 1960s music scene, start here and at Wikipedia.

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About Lou Novacheck