SCHONWALDER & ROTHE: Filter-Kaffee 101 (2011)
“We taste Filter-Kaffee 101 with a good dose of curiosity for the taste of adventure for an EM torn between its many old roots”
Cup 1 9:30
Cup 2 8:46
Cup 3 8:17
Cup 4 6:46
Cup 5 7:33
Cup 6 2:33
Cup 7 10:41
Cup 8 12:05
(CD/DDL 66:15) (V.F.)
FILTER-KAFFEE 101 saw the light of the studios from coffee-meetings between Mario Schönwälder & Frank Rothe, then technician for Broekhuis, Keller & Schönwälder's concerts, in 2007. Around these cafes, the accomplices discussed their passion for analog music. Little by little, this passion was transformed into brief recording sessions scattered over a period of 3 years. In January 2011, the duo listened to their demos and realized that there was enough material to make a good EM album in a Berlin School style. With the help of Gerd Wienekamp (Rainbow Serpent), who mastered it, Schönwälder & Rothe unraveled their recording tapes to put them in an order where everything would be linked into a long musical suite of almost 70 minutes. So came FILTER-KAFFEE 101! It's a pure Berlin School style musical effusion where wandering ambiences embrace minimalist rhythms in a beautiful fusion of genres; retro and modern sounds which meet at the crossroads of analog and digital musical structures for the greatest pleasure of Berlin School fans.
Cup 1 starts this new adventure of Mario Schönwälder with a nebulous approach where a slow and sinuous wave of a floating synth spreads its heavy foggy murmurs. A sequenced movement emerges and pulsates with a brusque and limpid rhythm. Accompanied by a discreet bass line and sober pulsating chords, the sequences hop and pound with insistence for a minimalist tempo which zigzags in the ambiences of a synth and its slightly fluty solos. Subtly kind of Tablas' percussions replace the approach of the sequencer whose chords lose their luster of clarity by spasm weaker to disappear in the sinuous synth solos which undulate among chthonian choirs. We are in a Tuareg universe, at the crossroads of the Repelen series from Broekhuis, Keller & Schönwälder and the music of Rainbow Serpent with more fluid harmonies and a more sustained rhythm thanks to tribal percussions and more smothered but effective sequences. Cup 2 presents an oblong and sluggish intro where dark synth layers , which travel in clusters or alone, intermingle in an immense morphic immersion filled of caustic reverberant erosions. Against all expectations, a frantic movement of the sequencer, rolling like a ghost train, pierces this dense sclerotic membrane of surging pulsations. Sequences with hybrid tones strike a wall of reverberations, bringing up dark choirs which groan under the arrhythmic strikes of a lost sequenced movement and seek direction in this tetanized immensity. And Cup 3 becomes the solution with its disordered sequences which gambol gently on a chaotic movement, as complex as enchanting, surrounded by long chiseled solos floating in an electronic mist filled of wandering choirs. Poetic and just lively enough, Cup 3 transports us to paradisiacal borders with this slightly jerky tempo which crosses a panoply of discreet rhythms, under sweet Martenot waves or a Theremin's, adding a strange spectral approach among ghostly solos that wander around above dislocated sequences. This living rhythm gradually darkens around the heavy twisted waves whose morphic vocalizations merge with sinuous reverberations, thus bringing us to Cup 4 and its melancholic piano notes which fade away among heavy pulsating reverberations.
Despite its twisted waves that are constantly swarming, there is something beautiful that resides in the isolation of Cup 4 where the notes of pianos resound with force, among more subtle ones, shaping a melody for abandoned souls in the lost territories. It's a strange sweetness which finds comfort near a hesitant sequenced movement which makes a little flee the corrosive resonances, building little by little the rhythmic structure of Cup 5 which hatches from a fusion of these elements to pulsate heavily under a sky filled by metallic streaks. Cup 5 sits its rhythmic structure on a powerful sequence whose heavy minimalist strikes extend a long pulsating circle which swirls with delicious ambiguity, a little as if drunk by its constant rotary course, under a sky darted by languid layers of synths. Synths that abandon the solos in favor of an intense and dense envelope of mellotron, escaping here and there a few cries of twisted metal. After this uncompromising rhythmic maelstrom, the short Cup 6 takes us into a world full of gloom and strangeness where the winds of anger and ghostly restraint roar. As brief as it is intense, this Cup 6 is a short trip to the heart of meditative madness. Strange that such a dismal title precedes the jewel of FILTER-KAFFEE 101 with a splendid piano which scrolls a very beautiful refrain in a heavy electronic mist. A splendid minimalist melody, Cup 7 delicately twirls its chords disturbed somewhat by the puffs of another musical idea of a synth which throws its scattered layers among dark and Gothic choirs. These medieval elements that shine with beauty and gloom, it's according to our tastes and our visions, throughout and album which ends with Cup 8. The chords pulsate and strum an abstract movement inside an imperfect circle, drawn by a sinuous wave with eroded contours and spectral lamentations. A strange and very experimental title that goes a little outside the framework of the Berlin School to embrace the Krautrock style with a conclusion closer to the stars than the other 7 cups of coffee sipped throughout this FILTER-KAFFEE 101.
Mario Schönwälder still has several strings to his bow and each new project clearly demonstrates this; the man still has a passion for his music. Although different, FILTER-KAFFEE 101 is drunk above all with a good dose of curiosity for the taste of adventure that comes from the discovery of this liquid with strong diversified aromas. And that's the way to approach this album. If Schönwälder & Rothe serves us nice cups with Cup 1, and superb ones in Cup 3, Cup 5 and Cup 7, the other cups require more listening. But they have very nice aromas that time will deflower with all the beauty that comes back to them, I must admit on the other hand that Cup 8 can become lukewarm before loving all its texture. In short, Mario wouldn't put his name on just any product, and that's what you have to remember. At the end, FILTER-KAFFEE 101 is a good album where Mario's fans will be delighted and those who seek to penetrate his universe will certainly find 5 to 7 very beautiful entry doors. Recommended for fans of Schönwälder, as well as those who love abstract and progressive textures as well as Krautrock.
Sylvain Lupari (September 3rd, 2011) *****
Available at Syngate