REVIEWS - ENGLISH
Irmin Schmidt & Kumo
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London - London Jazzfestival - 12. November 2001
A thinly-attended QEH doesn't serve as the best omen - and
a lukewarm reception to the solo piano recital from support act
Mark Springer only seems to underscore it - but from the moment the genial
Schmidt and the stick-thin Kumo make their entrance, they barely put a foot wrong.
The duo's recent album, "Masters of Confusion", was a striking fusion of classical piano,
sharply contrasting textures and drum & bass, and tonight's performance indicates
that the translation to the live stage has been trouble-free. Whilst beat
alchemist Kumo errs towards a soulful, deep-soak accompaniment, Schmidt is the
energetic focus, one moment pummelling spiky motifs on the Grand, the next dragging
breaking glass effects from his keyboard. Kumo is very much the necessary ballast
as his collaborator - a musical innovator since he helped birth Can in the
late ’60s - pilots these ceaselessly inventive pieces. Schmidt, ever-reserved
but clearly delighted at the QEH's enthusiastic response, somehow remains the
joyous kid handed the keys to the sonic sweet shop. Uncompomising though this
might be - anyone looking for melody would be advised to look elsewhere - the
vibrancy and fearlessness that are the trademarks of all truly great experimental
music are nonetheless here in spades.
22. 08. 2001
by Kris Needs
As keyboards-man for legendary German sonic renegades Can, Irmin Schmidt was one of the pioneers
of electronic music you could dance to. Can redefined what you could do in a group with extended
live groove improvisations, wich were often simply edited down into album tracks and made for some
of the most startling music of the 70s. Irmin would add the topping to the huge, funked locomotive
thundering below, whether it be delicately jazz-classical or the sound of a flying saucer landing
in your garden. Now he´s writing operas and teamed up with Jono Podmore formerly of Mr C's Plink
Plonk empire who supplies some seriously tricky drum programming. The meeting of the two styles
provides a stunning collision between current rhythms like drum'n'bass and techno and dark classical
strains humping avant garde electronica, always with that funky Can-like undertow. Whether it be
the clanking drum'n'bass of "Goatfooted Balloonman" or majestic, Spanish-flavoured piano workout
on "Las Plumas del Buho" which never stops accelerating it's fun all the way. Sometimes it
sounds like a full-tilt groove machine on Mars, in other quieter places you could hear a rabbit
breathe. "Beauty Duty" is a gorgeous beach swirler wich makes you wanna put on grass skirt while
"Either Or The Survivor" is disjointed metal-funk which puts many of today´s so-called electonic
anarchists in the shade for unbridled future vision. Check this but also track down the Can
catalogue, now reissued on Mute. It's another world.
(Five out of five)
by Louise Gray
There's little doubt that Irmin Schmidt or indeed his young sidekick, Jono "KUMO" Podmore, are
masters of confusion. It's just that they leave to the very last track on their first album
together to show just how confusing they can be. Recorded live at last year's Amiens Jazz Festival,
"Either or the Survivor" grows out of pulsing electronic beats with a sound and viscosity that come
from way down the bass clef, before building into a vast, tensed structure in which the Can founder's
keyboards and piano provide a kind of architectural filigree, while Kumo's beat generation is as
acute a process as three dimensional plotting. It's no exaggeration to say that these two do things
To an extent, Masters of Confusion declares an allegiance to the mission statment that Can never
needed to make: to embrace a state of continuous experimentation, with whatever modes of
production that technology may afford. So the pleasure here is the pairing of Schmidt's grand
piano with the electronics of Kumo.
Although there's some improvisation across the album's eight instrumentals (three recorded live),
it's difficult to work out exactly which musician is the more responsive. It's tempting to say that
Schmidt sets the agenda his jagged melodies, delivered at a frentic tempo on "Goatfooted
Balloonman" or "Burning Straw in Sky" are, rather like the soundtracks to silent movies, hard to
resist but Kumo holds his own well, throwing out clouds of Ambient sound and spraying beats
with a playful accuracy.
Depending on one's tolerance for some of its more unashamedly 70s influences (the melodic sweeps
that initiate the softcore skank rhythms on "Beauty Duty" in particular), the occasional jolt
makes you sware how precarious fusion/crossover work can be. But it's soon allayed, Schmidt's
"Gentle Into That Night", an excerpt from his Gormenghast opera, has all the vocabulary of
Debussy's piano studies, while Kumo's background gurgles, here very sotto voce, summon up a
blighted romanticism well.
It's good to remember that it's in the collapse and extension of genres, of classical music,
experimental or electronic, that both men work so eloquently.
by Gal Détourn
You might think when Irmin founder member of German legends Can decided to hook up with a drum
programmer and producer to explore something bang up to date, the ol'codger would probably fail.
How wrong you'd be, for these dudes live up their album title. "Goatfooted Balloonman" is like an
out-there piano performance at a wayward festival with a techno and breaks frenzy in the adjoining
field. Then there's variations that take you through dark crevices, force fields, Moroccan textures,
spooky frivolity, head pressure dub and avant junglist sonic terrorism.
(eight out of ten)