Marcus Schmickler and Hayden Chisholm - Amazing Daze [Häpna - 2007]
Amazing Daze presents something of a departure for Marcus Schmickler (a.k.a Pluramon). Schmickler's music through the years has consisted of everything from glitchy electronica to shoegazer pop, so maybe departure isn't the right word. Perhaps it's just one of many stops along the way. Drone is nothing new to Schmickler, but until now it's been presented in bits and pieces, within the context of his more song-based albums. Amazing Daze is his first headlong foray into extended drones, as each these pieces exceed twenty minutes each.
The title track is dedicated to Phill Niblock, and to anyone who is familiar with Niblock's music, it gives you a good impression of what you're in for. The piece is assembled very much in homage to Phill Niblock, as it seems that Schmickler has used the same methodology and concept. Hayden Chisholm, otherwise known for his talents as a saxaphonist, plays a single bagpipe note for as long as he can hold it. What makes this interesting, (very much in the vein of Niblock's didgeridoo piece) is that it's extremely difficult to hold a single note on bagpipes. As a result, when muti-tracked single bagpipe tones are placed on top of each other in the mix, different notes form as a result of the variations in tuning caused by human error.
Niblock is known for painstakingly assembling these tracks, superimposing tones at specific intervals to disorienting affect. Schmickler and Chisholm reportedly put this music together on the fly, in just a few days. Attempting to create music in homage to Niblock within such a condensed timeframe is a gutsy move. There are lots and lots of people creating drones these days, but Niblock has been at it for almost forty years, and has taken a perfectionist's approach to his work which few have rivalled. All of that said, Amazing Daze is a very nice piece of music. The bagpipe doesn't actually sound like a bagpipe until the piece is almost over. The variation in tone creates chords and tons of variation of tones, so each time you listen to this, it will be a different experience, based on where you're sitting, speaker position, etc.
There are differences between Niblock's work and this piece. Firstly, Schmickler has left Chisolm's breaths between tones in, where Niblock edits the breaths out. Secondly, Chisholm begins to go a bit out of the established tone toward the end of the track. Niblock is known for being strict about the player staying within the predetermined note as much as possible. This doesn't detract from the piece at all, though. In fact it gives it a bit of character, making it a work which isn't mere mimicry.
The second track, though also a drone, takes a slightly different approach. It's sourced from a Japanese mouth organ, and it roams around a bit more than the first track. Since the flute-like sounds are higher in pitch, the superimposed tones get downright noisy over its length. Though it's not a bad track, and warrants a listen, it is relatively harsh, so you may not find yourself wanting to repeat it quite as often as the first track.
On a side note, the packaging of this disc is lovely. It's presented in a gatefold sleeve with excellent surrealist artwork by Klas Augustsson. Erwin Michelfelder