Conrad Schnitzler - Trigger Trilogy (Important Records 3xCD)
By now you don't need me or anybody else to tell you about Conrad Schnitzler because he's been name-checked by every band, label, zine and blog from here to Timbuktu. You should also probably know him because he joined Tangerine Dream and helped them rule the world, then formed Kluster (who in turn formed Harmonia when Schnitzler left), and finally Eruption before retiring with his name firmly etched into the trophy awarded to the man who starts up the most awesome krautrock groups and then leaves them. Ever since his semi-withdrawal (at least from the public's view) in the 70's, he's kept busy by recording reams upon reams of material, typically with the synthesizer and piano. The "Trigger Trilogy" 3xCD is compiled from said reams although for whatever reason dates are omitted, probably at Schnitzler's request. So it's kinda hard to put the sounds, as good as they may be, into any sort of context. Nevertheless! Schnitzler has divided them up into three types, one per CD: Solo Rhythmics, Mix Solos and Con-Cert. What do these three wacky terms entail? Read on and keep reading to find out, faithful reading reader!
Disc one (or rather Trigger One) is Solo Rhythmics, and sounds pretty well close to what the disc's title would indicate. Essentially there are 14 tracks (unidentified except for their running time), and each one sees Schnitzler picking out a rhythm from his synthesizer and looping it for 3-5 minutes. They almost all invariably wind up catchy if not a bit cold (due to the nature of the machine, that is) but the more you listen the more you're able to imagine them as the foundations to pop songs (either from the 60's or from today) just with everything else removed...no words and no other instruments to get into the way. Just pure and tonal sound. The loops range from the cosmic, spacey, psych/kraut stuff that was such a huge part of Schnitzler's tenure with the aforementioned bands, to downright techno/IDM-ish near-beats that predate stuff like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Kruder & Dorfmeister by god knows how many years (and could easily double for the beats found on certain electronica-tinged musicians' releases like Bjork or Tricky). They're not all entirely gripping all the time but it's difficult not to at least be impressed by Schnitzler's bare-bones approach to music and sound.
Trigger Two is dedicated to the Mix Solos, or "Free Concert Mix Solos" as Schnitzler himself terms them. They're kind of hard to describe (I've read Schnitzler's wordy description several times and I'm still not sure I get the full gist) but basically he sets multiple rhythms and notes into motion and allow them to play off eachother, sometimes arrhytmically and sometimes not, tangling and untangling at will. Schnitzler uses the word "chaos" to describe the sound of these metallic tones colliding but in reality it's much more pleasant than that - in spite of the composer's best efforts the sounds here come off very coherant and downright infectious at times. Just about all of the eighteen songs bleed into one another but are all very individual...like a mini-opus that congeals within a rather brief timeframe before subtly shifting into something else all together. In my opinion some of the best material found on the whole set is right here, as Schnitzler's tones veer from sinister to cinematically epic to almost pre-natal noise to delicately weaved ambient super-structures. I may not understand the methods but the effects of the results are undeniable and prove just why Schnitzler is more than worthy of all the recent attention he's receiving.
The third and final Trigger is Con-Cert, wherein Schnitzler makes live mixes of his own recordings, layering and mixing tracks together to produce different synchoronized sounds (and from the amount of work Schnitzler has put to tape, an undoubtably limitless supply of possibilities). Kinda like a Schnitzler plays Schnitzler plays Schnitzler type thing. An even greater diversity is presented with these tracks, though they all do a good job of sounding intensely ominous for whatever reason but can recall anything from the last Dead Machines LP to Clint Mansell's "Requiem for a Dream" soundtrack to Thomas Koner to Lothar & the Hand People to...well you get the idea. It's tough to pinpoint favorite tracks since they're all untitled but there's a section mid-way through the disc where it sounds like he's working with some kind of xylophone/gamelan and lends a totally skewed/evil cartoonish vibe like a bizarro Alice in Wonderland or what have you...also great are the rapid-fire rhythms near the end invading cloak and dagger style into the recesses of my skull. In particular the last three tracks add up to nothing less than devastating, and are a perfect way to bring this excellent set to a close.
Important are to be thanked for bringing these recordings to light, and especially for making them available at such a low price (as most Important stuff tends to be)...$23.99 for three hour-long discs means even the most amateur of Schnitzler (heck, early electronic music in general) fans can indulge without feeling the slightest pang of guilt. Also worth mentioning is the eye-ripping design job courtesy Seldon Hunt, a name you might know from equally well-designed Sunn O))) products. All three beautifically-rendered CDs come in their own jewel cases with a glossy insert...my only complaint, like I said, is the total lack of any pertitent recording information (as in dates, or equipment used, and so on) but a pretty small one in the grand scheme of things. Even so, very highly recommended.