t’s an obligatory conceit to marvel at the list of pseudonyms/collobarations/projects that Uwe Schmidt has gone under/participated in any review of his work. According to the Atom Heart mailing list it’s something on the order of 64 different names- and counting. Now that we’ve got that out of the way...
In most cases the reciting of pseudonyms is incidental to the critique of the work in question. If anything is to be read into Nobody Knows, though, one must look to what Schmidt might be trying to evoke here- why did he choose this moniker over, say, Atom Heart? The religious dimension of the dance-floor? A possible religious conversion in his own life? A (possibly ironic) deconstruction of house and religion at the same time? Schmidt himself says it’s none of these things- that the answer lies somewhere in the title. Nobody Knows. The references to clicks and cuts and religion and dance music, in general, are placed here in every instance to throw you off from the prize. The prize, of course, being the fact that you need to stop thinking about these things and start dancing.
“We Call on Him” properly starts the festivities with a dub inflected bassline being surrounded by digital debris, seemingly unconcerned with being attacked on all sides by sonic detritus. The groove continues unhindered, even when a gospel sample comes in- repeatedly intoning “Jesus”, stripping the name of any sort of meaning that it might have once had. The song moves towards a stirring conclusion, pitting the “Jesus” sample against a longer drawn out male blues singer. The effect is perhaps less seamless than the attempts on Moby’s Play, but that’s entirely the point. It’s as though Schmidt is subverting the authenticity of the source material by never allowing it to mesh completely with the music surrounding it. Moby, on the other hand, attempted the opposite by going for a seamless mix of the acoustic and electronic and, for a lot of people, succeeded.
Here Schmidt succeeds, but the effect is a disconcerting one. Voices fail to materialize completely, are distorted beyond recognition, and are generally devoid of any of the emotion that must have accompanied the original recordings. This disembodiment is also felt in the music. The constant digital errors of the clicks ‘n cuts movement are present at all times, undercutting any sort of potential groove that has a chance to form. It is a stilted glitch house that emerges- and one that maintains a different kind of funk- one that is cut off at every opportunity, one that is not free flowing, but one that demands attention.
It’s not entirely successful, however. While the essential funk of the music is undeniable and the placement of the voices within the sonic milieu is appropriate, the songs somehow maintain a degree of awkwardness. It’s as though Schmidt is learning as he goes, trying out things that were not used on the previous Geeez ‘N Gosh record and getting closer to a final statement of purpose that will be the perfection of this particular genre of music. It’s as though Schmidt is Mondrian- moving ever closer to the minimalism of form and color- paring down elements, working towards a statement that will embody everything about the music that he has been creating thus far. That being said, he has a bit to go- and I’ll be excited to hear what he has to offer along the way.