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The Rich Electronic Music of Schönwälder & Friends

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For several years, German synthesist Mario Schönwälder has gathered together talented associates for the glorious task of creating electronic music of the highest quality. This music is frequently debuted in live concerts which are later documented through CD releases.

Here are a few of those latest gems...

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FANGER & SCHÖNWÄLDER : Analog Overdose 4 (CD and DVD on Manikin Records)

This release from 2007 offers 64 minutes of dreamy electronic music on the CD and 75 minutes on the DVD. The material on both discs is different, no duplication. The CD’s music was recorded in studios in Berlin and Frankfurt during 2007; the DVD’s music comes from a performance at the fifth Hampshire Jam in Liphook, England, on October 21, 2006.

The personnel are: Thomas Fanger and Mario Schönwälder.

Each disc respectively features three tracks, presented as “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” and “Dessert.”

On the CD...

A full array of electronics enliven this music, from heavenly passages crafted with choral tonalities to cyclic pulsations which employ more oomph. Atmospheric streams establish a dreamy backdrop for more animated melodics. As the tuneage progresses, chittering diodes frolic in the mix along with remotely reverberating sounds and keyboard loops of a regal nature. High end embellishment suitably tickles the sonic headway, lending stratospheric character to the gutsier harmonic lowlands.

While conventional percussion is not used, rhythms are generated through the swift application of crisply looped notes, boosting the music with bouncy tempos.

These compositions explore modern expressions tinged with a retro edge, combining fresh sensibilities with nostalgic hints. The result is captivating and thoroughly satisfying.

The first track is delightfully seasoned with guitar riffs (that are superbly synthesized) which flavor the flow with astral cadence and dramatic squeals.

The “Dessert” track features a bevy of environmental sounds (some pastoral, others automotive in nature) mixed into the driving melody, producing a constant progression of auxiliary elements flickering amid the piece’s stately ascension.

On the DVD...

The visuals are pretty basic, focusing on Fanger and Schönwälder sitting at their machinery and playing. Theatrics are minimal. A few gelled spotlights wander back and forth across the stage, but their initial presence is generally unintrusive. As the music evolves, so does the lighting, establishing ponderous blue pillars for a moody stretch. When the tuneage reaches more energetic territory, the lights strobe nicely to the beat of the pulsating keys.

The video is also interspersed with bits of off-stage footage of Fanger and Schönwälder. During the first track, they wander the countryside, examining shop fronts, peering off bridges, having a meal. After “Breakfast,” they drive to “Lunch,” the tracks seamlessly flowing into each other. They enter the Eurotunnel, travel along highways and pass an impressive array of power pylons. The music breaks between tracks 2 and 3 for audience applause, then the performers begin the encore (or “Dessert”), during which it’s Mario-a-Gogo with him physically grooving along as the tuneage gets peppier.

The music on the DVD is constructed in slowbuild fashion, layers accreting into lush panoramas peppered with softly sinuous beats. The melodies flow from passage to passage, gradually mutating into variations and generating new harmonics by interplaying with each other. Very dreamy, very retro. The third piece achieves a significant degree of sprightly activity.

A technical note: there are numerous albums in the Analog Overdose series, of which “4” appears to be the seventh. The labeling of these releases has grown quite diverse, with guest personnel and sidereal titles. Reviews of these previous CDs can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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FANGER & SCHÖNWÄLDER : Analog Overdose 4+ (CD EP on Manikin Records)

This release from 2007 offers 45 minutes of expansive electronic music.

The personnel here are: Thomas Fanger and Mario Schönwälder.

There are two tracks on this auxiliary release, both of notable length and gratifying sonic worth.

The first piece quickly establishes keyboard patterns over an electronic foundation of atmospheric texturals. Additional riffs of nimble character are introduced, each amplifying the melody with delightful intricacy. E-perc enters the surging mix, slowly expanding from subtle tempos to demonstrative rhythms. Not willing to be left behind, the keyboards continue to offer fresh chords to the accumulation of electronic loops, resulting in a steadily increasing density of bewitching quality. A sedate coda is teased by flutish harmonics which descend into a dark abyss.

The second track opens with vaporous tones and riffs that embody uncertainty as they gradually coalesce to form a stable structure. Bass loops usher in the tune’s cohesive stage. The high altitude tonalities provide a suitable basis for a series of cyclic riffs to commence their growth from infancy to brilliant maturity. Sounds of grand definition mix with crystalline notes, all swirling to form a mesmerizing pastiche of lovely disposition. A plethora of effects surface and recede, punctuating the accreting density. Meanwhile, the central theme(s) persist in swelling in force and emotion, achieving an authority that is strident yet personable. Airy texturals flow into prominence, enhancing the melodics with their breezy distinction. Some of the effects become gritty and fierce, excellently contrasting with the music’s nostalgic flavor. Haunting pulsations provide a tasty finish.

A wonderful extension of the above release that can stand on its own sovereign merits.

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BROEKHUIS, KELLER & SCHÖNWÄLDER : Live @ Dorfkirche Repelen 2 (double CD Manikin Records)

This release from 2008 features 146 minutes of gripping electronic music. Disc 1 was recorded live at Dorfkirche Repelen on January 20, 2008. Disc 2 features live and rehearsal tracks from performances at Dorfkirche Repelen in 2006 to 2007.

Joining Bas Broekhuis, Detlef Keller and Mario Schönwälder are Raughi Ebert (on guitar) and Thomas Kagermann (on violin).

This release adds lively guitar and energized violin to the percussion-enhanced pastiche of layered electronics, resulting in tuneage that is as vigorous as it is dreamy.

Twinkling electronics generate a spacey foundation of undulant passages with streaming harmonics of noble character. Adept keyboards provide additional layers, creating tasty chord cycles that achieve a certain majestic presence. Once established, these patterns persist in generous evolution, flowing with liquid propensity into passionate streams that combine puissance with delicate edges.

Sinuous percussion invigorate the electronics with engaging rhythms of an unhurried nature. The beats, manifesting as bouncy bongos as well as infectious drumming, emphasize rather than propel the melodies. The tempos exhibit intellectual restraint, never transforming the music into hyperactive techno.

Sultry violin strains weave throughout the mix, lending an idyllic air to the music. The mood is more pensive than melancholic, stimulating cerebral activity with tones that are vibrant and haunting.

The guitar contributes a balance of reflective embellishment, delivering refinement in the form of luscious movements designed to mesmerize with well-crafted discipline. At other times, the guitar achieves a searing presence with piercing riffs that express euphoric pinnacles of a glorious fashion, fiercely emotional and blazing with expansive authority.

There are some instances of vocal effects utilized in a non-lyrical fashion. And one track employs synthesized horns to punctuate the piece with a stately demeanor.

While generally dreamy and delightfully divine, these compositions possess a regal disposition that frequently achieves an impressive level of dazzle with masterful intensity. Climaxes are repeatedly accomplished and maintained, carrying the audience to stratospheric heights of rapture with each exhilarated passage. Even the more pensive tracks display a certain strength, conveying illustrious heart in their celestial definition.

The bulk of this music attains a state of demonstrative vitality, elevating conventional EM with a constant mien of powerful evocations. This stuff refuses to remain a background soundtrack, flourishing to dominate and stimulate the listeners’ frame of mind with rousing melodies full of enchanting stamina.

This release comes with a 16 page booklet featuring color photos of the venue and the performers.

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FANGER & SCHÖNWÄLDER : Stromschlag (limited edition CD on Manikin Records)

This release from 2008 offers 71 minutes of auspicious electronic music.

The first track is a peppy piece, with keyboards introducing a tasty bounce to a swarm of heavenly textures. A constantly growing lattice of snappy cafe e-perc helps support the music’s upbeat disposition, while sparkling keys delineate melodic enhancement amid hosts of swooping effects and periodic surges of bird calls followed by gusts of massed winged launches.

For the next track, the mood goes somber and hesitant as tonalities compare pulsations, ultimately giving in to an expansive calm defined by breathing drones and classic-styled chord sweeps of an airy character. Drifting harmonics evoke an arid landscape under a nocturnal starless sky. The darkness swells, dominating the flow with a brooding celestial quality.

The third piece emerges from those prior shadows, moving warily into sputtering sunlight laced with pensive chords rich with majestic augurs. That flock of birds is back, heralding the appearance of melodic loops emerging from the textural radiance. Rhythms enter the mix, and the tune achieves the sprightly dreaminess that is the musicians’ customary sound. From there, the music evolves engaging variations and introduces a series of auxiliary layers of glistening beauty.

Meteorological crashes start off the next track, allowing previous sounds to realign into new structures. Shrill electronic bubbling ushers in a bevy of new dense noises (piercing pinnacles and divine chorales and guttural drones), arranged to generate a wellspring of inspirational expectation. From this optimism rises a solid riff that gathers everything in its orbit, coaxing notes into lush cycles and sparkling keys. With the emergence of crisp, understated e-perc, the melodic density increases, lent nobility by an angelic presence that remains constant as the piece gathers rewarding puissance.

An opening of enduring textures seasoned with aerial effects leads to track five’s urgent progression from sharp pulsations to an enthralling intensity that is not only maintained but escalated to higher levels. Blooping notes pepper vertiginous tones, creating a luscious expansion that is then tweaked by additional cycles of rich mien.

The last piece marshals sustained chords and combines them to create a reverent passageway leading into a chamber of propitious harmonics of cosmic scale.

This music was recorded during sessions and rehearsals during the musicians’ stay in Montana and California in 2007, presumably concurrent with their participation with the Ricochet Gathering in Yellowstone that same year. (To read a review of the 4 CD set documenting that event, go here.

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