While divulging this information will definitely age me, I first consciously heard music created by one Uwe Schmidt, under his Lassigue Bendthaus (or LB, for label contractual reasons) pseudonym, around the turn of the century. The track was a cover of Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’ and it was a bleeping electro masterclass. I first heard it while dancing at Club 77 in one of its countless guises, but then also heard it at Frigid, the legendary Sydney Sunday night weekly that was spawned by the creators of this very publication. Being a more intimate and laid back set up there, I was able to ask DJ Gemma who it was by. This led me down the rabbit hole that is Uwe Schmidt’s catalogue.
I mention this because I came to know his work via a cover version and some of his most well known music (particularly in his Señor Coconut incarnation) is a vast array of cover versions. He has always had the ability to take these tracks and warp them, not beyond recognition – that’s not really his point – but, certainly well beyond the limitations that might be stylistically inferred by the originals. This new EP, under his Atom™ catch-all moniker, was created with Russian singer, Lisokot. The track that immediately becomes the focus, simply by virtue of the fact that it is one of the foundation tracks of rock’n’roll, is ‘Be Bop A Lula’. The song sways much more lopingly than the original by shifting Gene Vincent’s swinging 4/4 shuffle into a full 3/4 lilt. The electronic instrumentation pulses, buzzes and blips behind Lisokot’s sweetly affected slur. But it is that shift to 3/4 that becomes the gateway into the EP.
The name Walzerzyklus translates from the German as ‘waltz cycle’ and this is the fairly strict thematic conceit that Schmidt bases every track on. Each is created in an old fashioned waltz, something not regularly heard in electronic music. The electronic minimalism does a great deal to obfuscate this but, once you have tuned in to the rhythm, it is unmistakable. But the conceit goes much further than this. The 7 tracks are made of 3 tracks of 2 minute’s length, surrounding 4 tracks of 3 minutes – 3 and 4. It is a mathematical symmetry that can remain completely unconscious – though it won’t now that I’ve told you. But, regardless, it actually serves to give a sense of roundness and completion to the short suite of tracks. By the end, the journey feels complete and satisfying.
Along the way are dark oscillations of noise and delicate, airy piano, both contrasting with Lisokot’s soaring and cooing, as well as the odd piece of Schmidt’s spoken word. There are points where the music threatens a full arpeggio workout – ‘Leitmotiff’ feels like it could soar off into a transcendent synth run worthy of late period The Knife. At others, such as ‘Alliiertenwalzer’, it feels like 1930s Berlin cabaret, except the sounds are all brooding machine pulses, Schmidt expertly blending and contrasting these anachronisms, as he has shown he is an expert at doing for a few decades now. ‘Leitmotif I’ and ‘Leitmotif III’ begin and end the journey with noisy ambience in highly reverberant space, the topping and tailing being a large part of the reason the EP feels so self-contained. For 7 tracks in 18 minutes, using a deliberately limited sound palette and a strictly limited rhythmic palette, Walzerzyklus is wonderfully immersive and varied. Limitation is often the mother of invention and Atom™ & Lisokot use this to their full advantage in what is a remarkably satisfying set of tracks.