Distance Told Me Things to Be Said
epetitive music always strikes a chord with me. And not just “music”—car alarms, traffic crossing indicators, my alarm clock, and even the sound of a washing machine rocking backwards and forwards in the Laundromat have the same effect. As my LG Fuzzy Logic 5.5kg revolves it swings slightly out of phase and hits the side. Water swishes around the clothes, and when the momentum gets too much, the big white box lifts ever so slightly off the ground and drops back down like a slamming drum beat.
Is it like this for everyone who grew up with house music, I wonder, listening to Stefan Schneider’s fourth album as Mapstation: endlessly looping, endlessly entertaining repetitive beats, everywhere?
But I’m getting ahead of myself; Mapstation’s Distance Told Me Things to Be Said begins with a loping bluesy bass line. Where so many electronic records sound like they have something to prove, the understated “Horns Version” is anything but. London-based trombonist Annie Whitehead, who has played with everyone from Robert Wyatt to Blur and was once described as the “Sly & Robbie of British brass,” gives the music its voice with her languid phrasing. Drummer Martin Brandlmayr is almost as prolific a collaborator. A member of Radian and Trapist, he’s also worked with Axel Dorner and Christian Fennesz, and also played on Mapstation’s previous album Version Train. The Vienna/Berlin-based percussionist could undoubtedly produce a spectacular performance, but he keeps it uncomplicated, bashing out elegant polyrhythms that complement Schneider’s careful production.
Of course, Schneider gets around too. He’s a member of the palindromically titled To Rococo Rot, Kreidler and September Collective (with Barbara Morgenstern), and recorded The Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” as Schneider TM. This record’s three-dimensionality stems from that breadth of experience, the range of studios it was produced in (London, Berlin and Schneider’s native Düsseldorf) and the steady hand of Tarwater’s Bernd Jestram on the mix.
“The Way Things Change,” takes the album deeper. On that, and later songs such as “Sonorities” and “The Sinuous Ribbon,” the result is an electronic undertow that combines densely interwoven Afro rhythms and the intricacies of dub. At times the hypnotic results resemble the drones of former label-mate Andrew Pekler, especially on “Listening to Stockholm” and “Valencia Was Asleep,” songs that revolve about field recordings from those cities. But it is elevated by lightly blown horns, sharp melodies, complex percussion, and, despite my instinctive love of repetition, Schneider’s ability to occasionally shake the sense of rhythmic inevitability.
Reviewed by: Matthew Levinson
Reviewed on: 2006-05-02