Conrad Schnitzler – Conal 2001

Conrad Schnitzler
Conal 2001

There’s a picture on the back of Schnitzler’s Conal 2001 album that likely shows just one corner of the artist’s room. Full of keyboards and computers, it seems all wires and knobs, made jarring and harsh in black and white with heavy shadows. He’s not so much bragging about the electronics he possesses but showing a harsh, mechanized visual of the sounds contained in the three songs on this album. Three songs that take up more than 60 minutes, mind you.
Schnitzler has been an institution in the German electronic music scene for 30 years, having spent time in the experimental rock band Tangerine Dream and with artists Moebius and Roedelius in the band Kluster. After leaving Kluster, he’s continued to record under his own name, making countless tapes, CD-Rs, and other means of distributing his music to his friends. He writes his own statement in the inside of the CD – a warning of sorts. He makes his music for his friends, not to be popular, and he wants to be left alone.
That being said, this album – released on a subsidiary of the US indie label Mother West – will likely not do anything to make or break a mainstream phenomena. As mentioned, there are only three songs here – but better to call them compositions. Each identified only by their length (“18:55,” “20:33,” and “20:56”), they don’t make for an easy listen. As the image of his workspace portends, these pieces are harsh, mechanized, and cold, easily as black and white and shadowed as his own studio’s image. Bereft of beats like most electronic/house music, instead these are moody scoundscape pieces, dreary and overbearing, a bit frightening, a bit overwhelming.
I understand the appeal of electronic music, although it is not really my cup of tea. There’s something to be said for gaining mastery of all the sounds that machines can make and bending it to your will, presenting it in a way that conveys feeling or provokes thought. But there’s a reason why we, as humans, connect to rock and soul and similar types of music. Music made by human beings on instruments that are nothing without us – that’s what most music is about. This variety of electronic music is the sounds that computers themselves would make if one day they achieve intelligence and wish to entertain each other. I feel almost like an interloper for listening.
I am in no position to judge Schnitzler’s work, and from his proud and reclusive statement in the liner notes, he doesn’t want my judgement. Suffice it to say that I am not a fan. But I can’t say I dislike this, either. This is beyond me, this is music that’s visceral and otherworldly. This is something best left to his friends who need this.