Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider-Tiergarten.

Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider-Tiergarten.

Label: TAL.

Nowadays, musical collaborations are much more commonplace than ever before. Partly, that is because of the new musical technology that is available to artists. This has totally transformed the way that albums are now recorded. 

It’s now possible to record an album on a laptop using just a DAW with a handful of VSTs and a selection of samples. As a result, two artists collaborating on an album no longer need to record it within the environs of a traditional recording studio. Indeed, the two artists don’t even need to be in the same city, country or continent.

If they’ve access to high-speed broadband artists can collaborate remotely on album. That is how many artists are recording an album in 2017. However, when Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider decided to record an album together, they used decided to use just a few vintage analogue synths. The resultant album Tiergarten, was recently released on the TAL label. Tiergarten will be familiar with anyone who has visited Berlin. It’s the park in the centre of Berlin, which lent its name to  the first album that Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider have collaborated on. That is despite the pair enjoying a friendship that began in the late-eighties.

The friendship between Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider began in the late eighties, when they were studying fine arts at Düsseldorf Academy. Katharina Grosse was painting and Stefan Schneider was studying photography when they first met. Soon, the pair had struck up a firm friendship continued after they graduated from Düsseldorf Academy.

After leaving Düsseldorf Academy, Katharina Grosse embarked  upon a career in the fiercely competitive world of art. Over the next few years, gradually, she forged her own unique and unmistakable style. Nowadays, Katharina Grosse is a world-famous visual artist, whose known for inventive and innovative use of materials and colour. 

Especially when she creates her brightly coloured acrylic paintings and installations. They’re often created using an industrial air brush and mounds of pigmented dirt. The resulting partings are bold, and sometimes, psychedelic that that the viewer can immerse themselves in. To some extent, it’s an interactive experience, and one that art lovers across the world have experienced and enjoyed.

During her career, Katharina Grosse has exhibited at some of the most prestigious art galleries, ranging from New York’s MoMA PS1 to Chicago’s Renaissance Society and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Meanwhile, Katharina Grosse’s paintings can be found in Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Kunsthaus in Zürich, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Nowadays, Katharina Grosse is one of the leading lights of the German art scene, and divides her time between Berlin and Düsseldorf. That was where  she collaborated on Tiergarten, with her old friend Stefan Schneider.

After he graduated from Düsseldorf Academy, Stefan Schneider embarked upon a career as a musician. This came as no surprise, to some people who knew him. Stefan Schneider had already been a member of the Düsseldorf based rock group Sons Of Care, and avant-pop group Deux Baleines Blanches since the mid-eighties. He featured on their two albums,  Singende Drähte in 1986, and Songs From The Willow in 1989. Little did anyone realise that this was the start of a long and successful career.  

Three decades later, and Stefan Schneider has over 240 credits to his name. This includes worked as an arranger, producer, remixer, sideman, songwriter and vocalist. Stefan has also worked on various collaborations and been a member of several bands. This includes Kreidler, who he cofounded in Düsseldorf in 1994, with former members of Deux Baleines Blanches. Stefan was a member of Kreidler until 1998, when he left to focus on his side-project, To Rococo Rot. By then, Kreidler were well on their way to becoming one of the most innovative and influential German bands of their generation.

Leaving a successful band like Kreidler was always risky, but Stefan’s career blossomed. He divide his time between a variety of disparate projects. This included To Rococo Rot the Berlin based post rock and electronic band he cofounded in 1995. They’ve now released ten albums, including their most recent album Instrument, which was released in 2014. However, To Rococo Rot is only part of Stefan’s career.

He was also a ember of several other bands. This included  Music AM, who released a trio of albums between 2004 and 2006. Stefan was a member of September Collective, who released three albums between 2004 and 2009. Still though, Stefan found time to collaborate on a several high-profile collaborations.

This includes two albums with Bill Wells, Annie Whitehead and Barbara Morgenstern, Pick Up Sticks in 2004 and Paper Of Pins in 2009. A year later, Stefan and Bill Wells returned in 2010 with a new album, Pianotapes. However, in 2011 Stefan released the first of two critically acclaimed albums with one of the legends of German music, Hans-Joachim Roedelius. Their debut  Stunden was released in 2011, with Tiden following in 2013. Stefan’s next collaboration was with Sven Kacirek and the pair released Shadows Documents in 2014. These are just a few of the artists Stefan has worked with. 

Stefan has also recorded with, and performed alongside, some of the biggest names in music. This includes Faust’s Hans-Joachim Irmler; Kraftwerk and NEU!’s Klaus Dinger; Martha Wainwright; Saint Etienne; The Pastels and virtuoso drummer John McEntire of Tortoise, The Sea and Cake. These are just a few of the disparate artists that Stefan has with over the last three decades.

One artist that Stefan had worked for several years was Jay Patrick Ahern.This had released a string of E.P.s as the Hauntologists since 2008, but had never got round to releasing their debut album. This changed in 2015, when the Hauntologists, eventually released their eponymous album. By then, Stefan was working on a new album with his old friend Katharina Grosse.

By 2015, Katharina Gross and Stefan Schneider had reached the top of their respective fields. Katharina Gross was a world-famous visual artist, while Stefan Schneider was a groundbreaking and influential musician whose music had a worldwide audience. The two friends had come a long way since they graduated from Düsseldorf Academy. They had never lost touch, and had even performed together between 2008 and 2015.

Often, this was within Katharina Gross’ painted and sculpted environments. The music they made complemented and enhanced her art. Having performed together, the next natural step was for Katharina Gross and Stefan Schneider to record an album together. This became Tiergarten.

The idea to record Tiergarten came about a couple of years ago, and over the next two years, the pair set about recording nine instrumental tracks. These tracks were recorded by Katharina Gross and Stefan Schneider. No other musicians were brought onboard to record Tiergarten. This was a conscious decision. So was the decision to use just a small selection of equipment of analogue synths. It would’ve been easy to head to one of the top studios, where they could use a wide selection of classic synths. That wasn’t the way Katharina Gross and Stefan Schneider approached the recording of Tiergarten. They took a very different approach.

Prior to the recording sessions, Katharina and Stefan recorded ideas for songs separately. This to many people might seem like an unusual way to approach an album. However, Katharina and Stefan aren’t most people. They’ve enjoyed a long and close friendship and  almost intuitively, know how the other functions musically. It’s like a musical equivalent of yin and yang. After they’ve recorded an idea for a track, they knew after listing to it, whether it would work as part of the Tiergarten project. 

When the pair met, they listen to each other play live, and then began to form collections of sound that become part of an exhausting and vigorous musical conversation. This Katharina is keen to point out that they did: “without fixations.” Instead, they play their small selection of analogue synths with freedom and fluidity, and in the process, let their imaginations run riot. The result was captivating music that is full of twists and turns, and subtleties and surprises. It’s the musical equivalent of a magical mystery tour around Berlin . That is fitting given the title of Katharina and Stefan’s first collaboration. 

After spending two years of recording separately and together, they had eventually completed the album. All that remained was to think of a title for the album. Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider decided to follow in the footsteps of Neu!, David Bowie and Brian Eno, and name their album after part of Berlin. That day, Tiergarten was born. 

Tiergarten is the largest and most popular inner city park in Berlin. There are 520 acres for Berliners to enjoy and explore. Its history can be traced back to 1527, when it was founded by the Elector of Brandenburg as a hunting area. Since then, Berlin has grown around Tiergarten, and means different things to different people.

When Walter Benjamin published his memoirs Berlin Childhood Around 1900: Hope In The Past in 1938, he could well be thinking of Tiergarten when he wrote the first two sentences. “Not to find one’s way around a city does not mean much. But to lose one’s way in a city, as one loses one’s way in a forest, requires some schooling.” That is an adventure one would prefer to avoid. However, Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider’s debut album Tiergarten is a musical adventure to enthrall, embrace and enjoy.

As Blueberry opens Tiergarten, a dark, moody bass synth pulsates  while what sounds like birdsong joins with squeaks and beeps. They’re part of slow, moody, dramatic and cinematic soundscape that emits a menacing sound. Meanwhile, fluttering, sweeping and squeaking sounds flit in and out as the arrangement meanders along.  By then, sci-fi and otherworldly sounds are being unleashed. Later, the soundscape takes on an understated sound, but continues to captivate. Still though, there’s an element of drama. Especially as beeps, squeaks and cheeping sounds escape from an arrangement. They give way to whirring sounds that soars above arrangement, as if making its escape during this eight minute cinematic epic.

Understated described Aufglühen as it starts to unfold. However, its cinematic sound is guaranteed to set the listener’s imagination racing. Suddenly, scenarios start to unfold as futuristic sound emerge from the analogue synths. Initially, it sounds  as if it’s the soundtrack to movie about intergalactic warfare. Later, it sounds as if it’s a soundtrack to space travel, or a modern-day explorer in search of a lost alien race. Latterly, the music is moody, with element of drama as Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider paint pictures with their powerful yet understated music.

Despite being just a minute long, Schattenmodell is full of imagery. That is the case from the opening bars, when it sounds as if the futuristic synths are replicating inter-planetary warfare. This would be perfect  for the soundtrack to a sci-fi computer game. So are the array of beeps, squeaks, buzzes and shrill sounds that appear during the second half of this short but compelling soundscape.

A drone sits above the arrangement to Bright, while a myriad of sounds flit in and out. This ranges from a hissing sound to what sounds like sirens and later, an eerie and moody sound. Soon, they’re joining by crackling, bristling and beeping sounds. Later, sounds whoosh and whirr, while other times an otherworldly sound emerges. These sounds are used subtlety, and it’s a case of less is more. As a result, there’s always a degree of darkness drama as the soundscape reveals it secrets and surprises.

Yes No Why Later is the second of two short soundscapes. It quickly reveals an experimental sound, as Katharina and Stefan toy with their synths. Soon, a myriad of beeps and squeaks join buzzes and shrill, shrieking sounds. Later, a bass synths is joined by beeps, squeaks and crackles during this musical voyage of discovery.

Hypnotic beeps are emitted from Das Herz Am Schlagen, and take centre-stage, while a myriad of disparate sound drift in and out. This ranges from crackling and rustling sounds to whirrs and whooshes to later, sci-fi sounds. Mostly, they’re used subtly and compliment the mesmeric, bubbling beeps. Gradually, though, the music takes on a robotic sound, and the array of sounds that are deployed are no longer as subtle. However, an increase in volume allows them to seamlessly become part of a musical tapestry. Later, it’s all change as the soundscape  becomes understated, and beeps, crackles, whirrs and gently pulsates during one of their most innovative tracks on Tiergarten..

Straight away, futuristic sounds emerge from Strömung, and conjure up images of images of space travel. Partly that is due to the sound of  synths gliding high above the arrangement. Soon, this is replaced by crackling, beeping and squeaking sounds. They’re joined by whirring, whining, grinding and droning sounds that became part of this futuristic soundscape. Again, there’s an element of drama. Later, though, the soundscape floats along, before a dark, moody sound briefly appears only to disappear. All too soon, this captivating musical journey is over. In the space of six minutes, Strömung says more  than a thousand words can.

Dark moody synths drones on Lilie which closes Tiergarten. Meanwhile, subtle sounds whoosh, whir and beep hypnotically. They’re part of one of the most cinematic tracks on Tiergarten, which sounds as if it’s been influenced Cluster and Kraftwerk. 

Both bands created groundbreaking music during their long and illustrious careers. So did Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider during the two years they spent recording Tiergarten. It features nine carefully crafted soundscapes that last just forty minutes. That is how long albums used to last when vinyl was King. Alas, this changed when CDs were introduced. 

Suddenly, artists and bands were releasing sprawling albums that featured fourteen or fifteen tracks and lasted seventy minutes. What many artists failed to realise was that several of the tracks should’ve never have made it onto an album. They certainly wouldn’t have made it onto an LP, which given its time constraints featured only an artist’s finest music. That is the case on Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider’s debut album Tiergarten, which was recently released on the TAL label.

They have approached Tiergarten as if it was a vinyl album from the seventies. Only the finest music that Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider recorded during a two-year period made its way onto Tiergarten. This makes Tiergarten an old school album. It’s also a captivating and cinematic genre-melting album.

Tiergarten finds Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider combining disparate musical genres to create an album of inventive and innovative music. This includes elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental music and Krautrock. Elements of all these musical genres play their part in an album that is the musical equivalent of a magical mystery tour.

During this magical mystery tour, the music on Tiergarten veers between atmospheric, to dark and eerie to menacing and moody.  Sometimes, the music is cerebral, thoughtful, thought-provoking and ruminative. Other times, the music is understated and subtle, with Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider taking a less is more approach.  For much of the time, the music showcases a futuristic, sci-fi and otherworldly sounds. Always, though, the music on Tiergarten has a cinematic sound, and is  guaranteed to set the imagination racing. Quite simply, Tiergarten is a musical voyage of discovery, which is full of twists and turns, and subtleties and surprises aplenty. 

The two years that Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider spent recording Tiergarten, was definitely two years well spent. They have created a truly groundbreaking album where they push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond. That is despite limiting themselves to a small selection of vintage analog synths. They play their part in Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider’s cinematic, genre-melting musical opus, where the two old friends take the listeners on a magical mystery tour through Tiergarten.

Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider-Tiergarten.

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