Atom™: Cold Memories (Sähkö)
Uwe Schmidt recorded Cold Memories as Atom Heart way back in 1994, when it was nearly impossible to avoid some kind of project of his. This was before the schtick of Señor Coconut, but during his initial prolificacy that included projects Lassigue Bendthaus, n+, Midisport, Fonosandwich, HAT, and more. It’s a testament to Schmidt’s ingenuity and originality that nearly 20 years later, this still sounds fresh as ever. The double album is comprised of two long halves, each one nearly an hour. “Slow motion,” utters a time-stretched voice in the opening seconds of Cold Memories, and it’s a sign of what’s to follow. Most of the first half is beatless and sublime, with passages that all blend together like vapors mingling in the air. Only in the final moments of the first half does a rhythm section really come into play, and it’s in this final movement that it sounds mildly dated (with a chugging broken beat that recalls the mid 90s trip hop of Delerium, complete with disembodied chanting). The second half begins with a chill as well, mostly beatless though with some rhythmic undertones that especially take shape about a quarter of the way through with undulating sounds and reverberation. The beat kicks in with a slower but steady drive, but it’s a series of strange, squeaky noises and woodwinds (like strangled bird calls) that set the tone periodically, even with a touch of acid in its final stretch. All in all, it’s just another installment in Schmidt’s massive backcatalogue of interesting, quality music. But I’m thankful for Sähko giving it the royal treatment and making it more readily available after all this time. It’s both a time capsule as well as more evidence that Schmidt is a true innovator, both in touch with what’s happening in electronic music as well as unafraid to wander wherever his inspiration takes him. The vague shifts between ideas and sounds, blended over the span of two single long tracks here, feels like dream logic, sometimes taking unexpected turns but always leading the way confidently, regardless of what strange path it might be taking you down.