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Music Review: Irmin Schmidt & Kumo – Axolotl Eyes

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Mute Records has a 30-year history of releasing the finest in electronic, experimental, post-punk, art rock, avant-garde, and alternative music, and this new album by Irmin Schmidt & Kumo is another prime example of the quality and ever-progressive direction of the label’s offerings. Irmin Schmidt was founder member and keyboardist for the legendary German avant-garde rock group Can and Kumo (aka Jono Podmore) is a breakbeat pioneer and producer. Sound like an interesting combination? Well, it is.

You might gather from the album’s cover art, a powder-white naked man and woman whose red veins are visible through their skin and who have Mexican salamander heads, that this is not going to be a mainstream pop affair. Axolotl Eyes is filled with music that beautifully contrasts synthetic and ‘real’ instrumentation. Kumo’s scintillating beats, shimmering grooves, and sonorous bass perfectly envelope Schmidt’s meandering piano excursions. Several tracks also feature Paul J Fredericks on vocals, Ian Dixon on trumpet and throughout Schmidt and Kumo keep it interesting blending together theremin, slide guitar, keyboards, and violin with the crackling synthetic beats and atmospheres. This is a big departure from Schmidt’s Can days, but I think any Can fan would know that the one thing you can expect from the ex-Can men is experimentation and pushing the boundaries of sound.

The set also comes with a bonus 5.1 surround sound DVD of the sound installation Flies, Guys and Choirs, created by Kumo, Sandra Podmore, and Kate Shipp. The film was first conceived for Londonís Barbican Centre in 2001 and also screened at the Sonar festival, Barcelona and Les Chants Mechaniques festival in Lille. It’s certainly trippy with its psychedelically-effected close-ups of insects, fish, and other natural things, accompanied by quietly forceful environmental music.

The album is out now on Mute Records in the U.S. (Spoon Records in the U.K.) and is another excellent chapter in Irmin Schmidt’s long and adventurous recording career.

You can preview tracks at Irmin Schmidt & Kumo’s MySpace page.

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