Guenter Schlienz

Tape Studies

Synths rule. Guitars... they are cool. We know this. But synths aren't going down without a fight, and not by a long shot. Um, not that it is a fight or anything, but still, we have guys like Mr. Schlienz here, folks not only performing on synthesizers but also building them, toying with circuits and electronics to expand these instruments' capabilities in exciting (however totally nerve-calming, coma-inducing) ways. And the heck of it is that Schlienz is a guitarist—over 150 gigs under his belt in various rock/folk iterations over a six year period in the 90s for starters. Since 2003, however, Schlienz discovered and fell in love with electronics, experimenting with circuitries and tape machines and immersing himself in experimental music culture. And so we at the Tome refuse to sit idly by; we simply cannot ignore what's going on here either, even though guitars happen to be destroying it in 2012. And neither can Daniel, thee good Daniel of Germany's Sicsic Tapes, who has commited this series of compositions to cassette tape for our zombified, zoned-out, post-halloween pleasures.

Yes, Schlienz has created this year's must-have catalyst for pupil-rolling stupors. A few minutes of either side feels like the equivalent to absinth plus a heavy dose of whiskey (and/or possibly cough medicine), all of it happening to you while being situated in a not-too-distant Terminator-esque future. To be fair and honest, Side A has more of an optimistic feel altogether, a starry soundscape spread across the stereo space in "Presentation One" as synths flicker to life like little beacons of hope. Side B, however, is a hangover happening in the most barren of landscapes, Schlienz's droning tones lined out into a flat and unforgiving expanse of apocalyptic lonliness. No matter the mood presented, there are hallucinations blueprinted into this music's wavery wavelengths, and in them ghosts fluttering and flying about. Each individual note might be one, with its own character and personality—coming, going, making appearances only to wane away before re-entering minutes later to reprise its contribution to the endless, spiraling musical conversation. It's a real dizzying cycle of sound that is elongated in form, often drawn out for what feels like ever... a technique that might drive some mad. Full of repitions in melody and harmonic underpinings (especially the 4th "study," found filling out the entire B-side of the tape). But to others, the patience and restraint is not only apparent, but obvious—masterfully done, Schlienz allows for each little nuance to be given its full attention and space to develop and contribute to the compositional whole, whether the presentation be more melodic-based, like the first track, or centered more in texture and dynamics, as is the case with "Presentation Two."

After years of studying and tinkering in the studio and in live spaces, Tape Studies—a work that uses reel-to-reel, modular synthesizers, organ and tape echo—may very well represent the composer's most-seasoned and developed accomplishment yet. A fascinating and diverse array of approaches to synthesized sound that presents a common, almost cliché instrument in new ways to keep us all thinking and wondering about the still-endless possibilities of electronic sound. As long as there are Frankensteins out there, no one instrument, method, genre, or form will ever be complete. Music, as it were, is always an unfinished business... that's why the hell we do this anyway, isn't it. So thanks, Guenter, for reminding me of this simple and oft-forgotten truth.


p.s. Unfortunately, this tape appears to be sold out from the source, but check with distros for a chance to nab a copy. And by the way, Sicsic has already released another batch that appears to be as stellar as the last one (which I am still wading through), and these suckers go quick, so don't sleep!

Guenter Schlienz Official Website

Sicsic Tapes

November 2nd, 2012