IRMIN SCHMIDT & KUMO
Press Extracts - Axolotl Eyes
Having masterminded the impossibly-influential Can 40 years ago, Irmin Schmidt could be forgiven for mellowing with age, but this latest collaboration with British electronic music pioneer Jono Podmore shows his ever-questing spirit alive and joyfully kicking. Using the old Can technique of recording for hours then editing down, the pair have created a rich, vibrant, often jaw-dropping collision between man and machine; some achievement in this age of faceless technological one-upmanship.
Kick On The Floods announces that this no ordinary album, kicking up a hallucinogenic space-funk shuffle laced, like several tracks, with Ian Dixon's ghostly trumpet and Paul Frederick's whispery vocals over a gamut of unearthly melodies and textures from Irmin's synthesisers.
However, some of the most breathtaking moments come from his piano, whether spilling avant-jazz flurries on Drifting Days, Crime Pays or reconstructing classical themes on the glorious Etrurian Waltz.
Umbilicus Clear invokes the beatless electronic dronescapes of Tago Mago, but the most exciting excursions for Can fans will be the incandescent title track and stunningly complex Meteor Infected, which sound like nothing on this planet. This monumental addition to the Can-related sonic armoury comes with bonus DVD of the Flies, Guys and Choirs sound installation conceived for London's Barbican Centre in 2001.
- Kris Needs
...It's their second collaboration after 2001's Masters of Confusion extrapolated material from Schmidt's opera Gormenghast, but here, augmented by Ian Dixon (trumpet) and Paul J Fredericks (vocals), Schmidt & Kumo turn in a genial, occasionally fiery cluster of rhythm-based improvisations. Podmore's theremin and Schmidt's piano flourishes and digital stippling lend the project a distinctive signature.
- Rob Young
Irmin Schmidt's shimmering keyboards were a major factor in the glacial beauty of Cologne's legendary Can. But this second collaboration with Liverpudlian drum'n'bass merchant Kumo takes the veteran Krautrocker into heavier waters, with its tough breakbeats and syncopated jazz grooves. Enlisting vocalist Paul J Fredericks, Schmidt and Kumo construct vast, intense electronic soundscapes, particulary on the manic, intensely rhythmic Meteor Infected, while Ian Dixon's trumpet adds a bit of Morricone melancholy. But it's the nasty Penderecki inspired chopping violins of the menacing Umbilicus Clear and the driving arpeggiated pianos of Etrurian Waltz that prove that Schmidt's desire to push musical boundaries remains unabated.
- Neil Gardner
Maybe one reason why this album represents some of the best work by Schmidt for some time is that his muse needs to be tickled by people who understands rhythm. Can's Leibzeit as we all know was a funky, motorik powerhouse. Kumo is a much more squiggly, digital beast, but along with contributions from trumpeter Ian Dixon and vocalist, Paul J Fredericks, he really gels with Schmidt's rippling piano and some very subtle electronics.
It's a winning, warming blend that finally arrives at Schmidt's wonderfully skewed piano on Etrurian Waltz.
Axolotl Eyes is a welcome and accessible return for the grumpy uncle. And yes, you can dance to it...
- Chris Jones
2008's Axolotl Eyes is different from 2001's Masters of Confusion. It is also very different from anything else near it on this website, anything else you'll hear on radio today, or anything in the chart of your local HMV. That's why we love them so much.
Overall then, Axolotl Eyes? Dogs bollocks more like (and that's a good thing). So, Ditch your Operator Please CD, put away your Goldfrapp and turn off the Kills (if only briefly). This is art, this is music, this is worth your time.
- Matt Coxon
Axolotl Eyes is clever and even slightly suave, with some fantastically assured playing from Schmidt,... He and Kumo shunt the borders of what the album actually does so often that even when it seems like it's going to settle down into a comfortably jazzy pipe and slippers mode, it opts for avant-soundscaping that becomes hallucinatory to the point you don't notice it's grabbed your attention until some short sharp blasts make it apparent you're right inside.
- Richard Fontenoy
A product of Irmin "founding member of Can" Schmidt and Kumo, who is apparently also a Professor of Popular Music known as Jono Podmore, this record is intelligent, jazzy, interesting and yet quite typical of the electro end of Mute's output.
- Eddie Thomas