Making Music
    February 2002

    Irmin Schmidt & Kumo
    Queen Elizabeth Hall, London - London Jazzfestival - 12. November 2001
    by DD

    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)

    The Wire
    September 2001
    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 in space.
    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.

    Future Music
    September 2001
    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)

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