AMN Reviews

AMN Capsule Comments: Mike Eisenberg’s Recent Playlist (July 23, 2021)

From time to time, AMN writer Mike Eisenberg revisits older albums that he has not listened to in a while and provides comments.

5uu’s – “Point of Views” (1996)   

As usual, with all these recent postings of mine, it’s been way too long that I’ve heard this. It’s a compilation of their two first albums minus a track on the first one, plus their ep, plus a song that only appeared on the ReR quarterly.

When I first heard this band back in the mid 80’s, I played the album “Bel Marduk and Tiamat” to death. I was just getting into the avant-prog scene around that time and I think I discovered The Cow around the same time too, maybe a little before. Anyway, the playing really grabbed me, especially the virtuosity of the drumming. I remember dissecting every instrument and every sound and being floored by their talents. Also, the recording is great (on both albums actually), sounding fantastic at loud volumes, which I did often.

Their second album, “Elements” was a little harder nut for me to crack, but when I did come around to it, it’s now my favorite of the two. I think the addition of the Motor Totemist Guild added an amazing dimension and showed the genesis of the U Totem group. I also think the writing is better on second album as well, both lyrically and musically…definitely a stride forward for the band. These bands and albums were so formative for me in shaping my tastes moving forward throughout the 80’s and 90’s and, till this day, the 5uu’s sounds as modern and vital as ever.

Peter Frohmader – “3rd Millennium’s Choice Vol 1 (1990) and Vol 2 (1991)  

Each of these albums shows a different side of PF so, I wanted that variety. Vol.1 has him in full electronic “dark menace” mode (the album cover kind of gives it away). I always loved his completely unique and singular approach to electronic music, and that approach is on full display on Vol.1. When I listen to PF’s brand of electronic music, I’m always given a sense that it’s built on a very fragile, rickety foundation that is in danger of collapsing upon itself at any moment. Everything seems to be constructed in a somewhat Rube Goldberg fashion with off-kilter melodic fragments, digital drums that sound like they are being played manually keeping rhythms that you may or may not be able to count and arpeggiated sequences that don’t seem to resolve or, if they do, they do so using some kind of alchemic logic known only to Peter.

This style has been prevalent across Peter’s catalog, or at least what I have heard of it, (some of his very recent releases I haven’t heard). The overall result is quite unique. Vol. 2 is well…different. I don’t want to say a kinder and gentler Peter but…the scattershot menacing edges have been smoothed out and replaced with something…not quite New Age, but New Age done Frohmader style, i.e. unusual. He has help from other players on violin, classical guitar, harp, and wordless female vocals and the general feel of Vol. 2 is something like, Mike Oldfield music covered in dollops of natural dangers. What does that mean? Long synth-based swells, rising and falling, wind and crashing waves, disjointed siren cries of lost souls, pastoral moments of gently plucked harp strings and classical guitar and…guess what, he still manages to throw in some of his random, higgly-piggly off-kilter rhythms and drum programming. So, don’t get me wrong, this is decidedly not massage room music. If it was possible for Peter to be kinder and gentler though, this is a good example. Both records were great, in their own way and, as I was listening to them, I realized that it’s been far too long that I’ve visited his output.

Paul Schütze – “New Maps of Hell” (1992)

Never quite sure how to categorize Schütze because, like this album, he does a bit of everything. This is a BIG album, and by that, I mean BIG sound, wide soundstage, a massive, beautifully constructed wall o’ sound that is built from electronics, percussion (lots and lots and LOTS of percussions), guitars, basses, and even some trombone. It’s mostly a loud album too, sometimes it reminds me of a Bill Laswell production. If you listen carefully, it’s chock full of tiny little audio easter eggs…in fact, half the fun of hearing this record is discovering these easter eggs. Headphone listening helps in a big way. I mentioned the percussion…I loved it! It sets the vibe of the entire album giving it a tribal, ritualistic, somewhat ethnic feel to things. Problem is, I can’t really correlate these rhythms to any known society or region on the map…oh, that’s right, these rhythms signpost you through hell, they are the NEW maps of hell. (What happened to the old?) Regardless, the journey was grand, fraught with dangers, and completely ear cleaning at high volume levels…the way the album should be heard. Highly rec’ed!!! 

Michael Eisenberg

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