“Dreams Top Rock” in The Wire   (Read)

Charms Music Clerk, as Cologne based Marcus Schmickler anagrammatises himself on the credits of this third Pluramon album, should not be so quick to hide his lights under a bushel. Pluramon has always been one of the more unpredictable and interesting projects to stem from the fertile jungle of sounds that has been bred in the furtive community of friends centred around Cologne´s A-Musik and Sonig labels for the past 15 years or so. But this album, the first under the Pluramon banner since 1998´s Render Bandits (not counting it´s remix version album Bit Sand Riders), is just about the best avant pop/noise record to emerge from the independent sector since My Bloody Valentine´s Isn´t Anything. It´s a startling reinvention for Schmickler, who has proved himself capable of holding his own in a wide variety of contexts. As a member of Kontakta- an improv collective from back in the early 90s who produced a lone recording that became Colognes rosetta stone- he´s one of the charmed circle of experimental insiders who have infiltrated the city´s underground scene over the years, including Sonig´s Frank Dommert, Hajsch, Mouse on Mars´Jan St Werner and, at one time, even a youthful Jim 0´Rourke. Since the he´s lasted the distance as one of the music´s triathletes, producing pure electroacoustic compositions under the name Wabi Sabi, minimal Techno for Thomas Brinkmann´s Ernst imprint, and laptop improvisation with the likes of Thomas Lehn and Mimeo. Pick Up Canyon, his first Pluramon LP for Mille Plateaux, briefly sluiced in the plashing pulsations of Can sticksman Jaki Liebezeit. A more regular percussive partner has been young jazz drummer Jochen Rueckert, who reappears here- although the drums are often a distant sonic pulsar behind a galaxy of crackling, digitally stoked-up guitars. This is a song album, but not like you´ve ever heard before: guest musicians include Keith Rowe, Felix Kubin and Kevin Drumm. There´s nothing else quite like this right now, even though it sits neatly among the disparate caucus of units such as Animal Collective, Black Dice, Radian, Tarwater, Dean Roberts, et al: post rock (roque?) outfits in the original, intended sense of augmenting instrumental line-ups with technologies and practices foreign to the Stones>Pistols>Nirvana bloodline. But Schmickler has a trump card to play – the female voice he has chosen to breathe life into his intended song album. It is the cottonlined, featherstroked larynx of Ms Julee CruiseDavid Lynch´s favourite vocalist is all over this record, sharing some of the writing and composing credits, and her tuned breath – rather than the vibration of vocal chords – so suited to her Floating Into The NIght album of 1989, and which is so well suited to Lynch´s phantastic cinema, is an ideal partner for Schmickler. Pluramon music is itseld a metafiction, a fictive version of pop reconstructed from a hard disc loaded with samples of real time actions, riffs vamped on guitars, skins struck, wind piped through stoppered wooden tubes. Time For A Lie is a killer track, appearing in two versions. It opens the record with stratocruiser confidence, and later winds it down in a seconal haze. Cruise plays the smiler with a knife. “It´s a wonderful time in our lives/ The people stare and whish they were us,” sings a mouth stuffed with marshmallows, before the switchblade is flicked: ” They´ll never know that there´s no trust/ And everything is all fucked up/ It´s a beautiful time for a lie… ” (None of you Cocteau Twins frou-frou foxes here.) Curiously, at the coda Schmickler can be heard picking out the notes of “Be Near ME” by ABC – another group with a profound selfconciousness about the Song, though more repulsively exhibited. On Flageolea, Rueckert sweeps with the brushes while Hayden Chisholm´s clarinet scrubs away at the gently yawning acoustic jazz flow. “Have You Seen Jill” is a lament for one already departed, in a honeyed vocal spooned down freom the clerestory. Far from beeing merely a showcase foregrounding Cruises´remarkable talents, her placing deep inside Schmickler´s lush stereo mix has the air of a rare, shy creature in a zoo shambling about in the dark shadows at the back of the cage. You could even see the songs as constructions like the curious cabinets of artist Joseph Cornell: four square containers filled with mysterious, wonderful figures and trinkets, but the more you try to gaze inside, the more you begin to see little mirrors, embedded partitions and compartments or layers of scenery that obstruct and confuse. “Log” and “Hellow Shadow” are almost too obviousy pastiches of the ripe autumnal guitar bleedings of MBV, the latter finding a ravishing way of marriying a Kevin Shields- like comet trail to a groove straight off one Sandy Denny´s folk-trogs. And few apart from Schmickler could put call-centre robovox over a symphonic, slide guitar slowdance of “Differenc Machine” and get away with it.Songs that have no truck with sentimental mush, that can still cut the quick; pop-length compositions densely packed with intrigue and clouded by the fog of emotional warfare: it´s time for this charming music clerk to have his day.Rob Young for The Wire 12/03

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