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CD Feature/ Snake Figures Arkestra: "Cooks & Devils"

img  Tobias

This man just won't stay put. Shortly after Ignaz Schick's Petit Pale-duo with Sound Sculptress/Inside-Pianist Andrea Neumann had gotten off to a good start towards the end of the last millennium, they decided to take on board a slew of friends and neighbours, founding new outfit Phosphor with Alex Dörner and Robin Hayward. Never content with doing one thing at a time, however, Schick simultaneously embarked on a journey into the „no man’s land between electro-acoustic, industrial noise, ambient, minimal and psychedelic music“ with three-piece Perlonex, which would go on to build a highly selective and live-oriented discography. Even his solo career, which effectively began around 1998 and regularly resulted in collaborations and duo constellations, has been marked by a cornucopia of gestures and guises, ranging from brutish Noise reflections in the early years to a a more refined approach on his more recent efforts. Quite obviously, then, Schick distrusts the notion that creative achievements, as critically applauded and artistically rewarding as they may have been, should necessarily be followed up by sequels - as „visual“ as his sonic style may sometimes appear to be, it'd be hard to imagine him being big in Hollywood.

On the other hand, the constant process of questioning himself and his aesthetics as well as his tools, tastes and techniques, always seemed to be aimed at a single, quite functional ideal: Broadening the expressive palette and deepening his responsive repertoire. Every co-operation yielded new ideas for solo compositions, every individual insight presented concepts for group endeavours. As someone who firmly believes that „in general there is 95% of planning/experience and 5% of spontaneity“ even in improvisation - a field most of colleagues would consider the domain of intuition and the subconscious - this desire to learn has become characteristic for both his concerts and his recordings and has turned following his career into a public display of character development.

„Cooks & Devils“, a single track culled from a performance at the Kunstverein Göttingen in Summer of last year, shows just how far he has come. The „Snake Figure Arkestra“, the latest formation to flow from Schick's fantastical fluidum, is centered around an enduring partnership with Marcel Türkowsky but, needless to say, again open to external input and to debate, discussion and critical discourse: The Arkestra has already joined forces with Drone-Surrealist Christoph Heemann and Sound Artist Michael Northam in the past and looks intent on continuing this creative exchange with likeminded souls and dissenting voices. As proficient as both Schick and Türkowsky (whose projectology is almost as extensive and eclectic as his friend's) have become in joining the most diverse sources into a fluent continuum, one can still hear the sympathetic „childish curiosity“ which ignited their passion for working together in the first place.

Having said that, there is certainly nothing cute or naive about this exchange. Nor has the duo's preference for little instruments resulted in a „small sound“ or a dialogue focused on the exchange of mere niceties and subtle suggestions. Quite on the contrary, „Cooks & Devils“ displays a fondness of metallic resonance, electric kettle-like howls, percussive crashes, sudden moodswings, high-pitched tweets and clamoring climaxes where all of these components come together in clustered clouds of din and drama. Rather than caressing their toys like stuffed rabbits, Schick and Türkowsky seem to twist, torture and maltreat them in ways that would alarm any responsible instrumental rights activist.

Following a strictly Machiavellistic logic, however, everything is happening for a reason here. Especially in their texture-building, the group demonstrate a deep understanding of the psychology of listening. A couple of minutes into the iridescent opening drone, you notice that it is made up of various layers, some of them vacuum cleaner-like, others soft-spiked and impulse-generated as if caused by the gentle rippling of a cymbal-surface. Where these sub-contexts there right from the beginning or discreetly added at a later stage? Constantly, you find yourself questioning your perception of the musical interaction here as the narrative is driven by an intriguing thematic motor underneath the track's outward development.

Within the span of no more than 20 minutes, the duo goes from a nascent and tentative introduction to segments of varying degrees of concretion and abstraction and somehow even manages to come full circle in the closing minutes. Which is why packaging this 3inch CD as though it were a full-length release makes complete sense. It is also an album which may have you listening to it on repeat several times in a row for the mere fact alone that each spin suggests new structures and conjures up different ideas. Certainly, the Snake Figures Arkestra have opened up a plethora of potential directions and points of departure here. Then again, I wouldn't place a bet on what they may be up to next. Staying out in one place and catering to expectations, after all, is not exactly Ignaz Schick's specialty.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Ignaz Schick
Homepage: Zarek Records

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