This work, a slab of ephemeral glitches wed to elliptical melodies, is organized much as the stories in a building: percolating dial tones and shy found sounds, lodged uniformly atop cyclical repetition of minimalist piano motifs, act as a frame to hold the purring drones and coiling metallic scrapes together. And although such micro-sound excursions are rarely shaped into a coherent whole, the architect at the helm, one Michael Schumacher, is a veteran of many past trials including a medley of sound installations, compositions for chamber orchestra, two symphonies, and collaborations with prepared electric guitar improviser Donald Miller.
Attesting to such experience, the opening moments of "Still," the album's first piece, establish a stable foundation. Airy slices of crackling dust permeate a dusky cloud of high-frequency noise, but in scheduled segments. Each horde of pattering glitches invades in disciplined regiments, branching out like rust eroding a sheet of metal. The effect is most amusing, as each brigade approaches the once formidable generator hum with stealth, only to lay siege to its dense mass, clamorously cutting it up with its steady, controlled clicks and occasional onslaught of perturbed noise. As though giving up, the once enveloping drone drifts away into harmonic tones and, at long last, the ether of binary silence.
With the next composition, "Two, Three and Four Part Inventions," Schumacher exhibits deft compositional abilities, setting queasy percussion and wayward trumpet bleating amidst intermittient digital slashes and a buzzing saw-toothed organ that scuttles in and out with stuttered forward momentum. These squawking staccato runs foster an abstracted lyricism, which, when coupled with the moaning murmurs of a male voice, harkens back to the theater of the absurd. Indeed, though the first piece suggests acutely crafted, if predictable, exercises in glitch electronica, the second half of the album is soused in spontaneity, silence, chance displacements and concepts of modern composition that recalls Morton Feldman, Luc Ferrari or Toshimaru Nakamura.
On the aforementioned "Two, Three and Four Part Inventions," one can hear the
Horns' metal, its various resonances and vibrations, the way it meets with one's
breath. Schumacher then weaves depth into this fabric, plucking churning motifs from a piano, his hand acting as the waterwheel, drawing power from the river of notes. "Room Pieces New York," meanwhile, is a skirling tapestry of sharp noise shards continuously massaging the throbbing thistles of pulsing sound. A seasick clatter of reverberating percussion and ominous oscillation propel the piece onward, 'til a tidal wave of noise capsizes this ship, sending it into a gurgling wet wreck.
The density of Stories prompts repeated visits; however, its meticulous attention to detail promises a certain pleasure with each return. Schumacher is rare in his ability to merge modern compositional techniques with digital processing. Whether in the form of slow serrated drones or the broken code of tiny machines, notes drop as though from faucets plumbed to Schumacher's brain. With Stories, he crafts a structure as admirable for its design as for the aesthetic pleasure of engagement.