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atom tm - Winterreise
At this point in his career, and with more pseudonyms then anyone can be rightly expected to keep track of, you'd be forgiven for being a bit blasé about the work of Uwe Schmidt. Gone are the days back in the late 90's and early noughties when pretty much every month saw a new Scmidt alter ego appear on his own Rather Interesting imprint, eventually leading to huge commercial success under the Senor Coconut guise and headline appearances at numerous music festivals. The output started to slow down, restricted to a number of new recordings and collaborations for various labels, as well as older ambient works reissued by Fax and Sahko, and ACID tracks revived by Logistic - before his most substantial release as Atom ™, 'Liedgut', appeared on the Raster Noton label a couple of years ago. Substantial not so much in length (the album clocked in at 35 minutes) - but more in its coherence and intention, returning to a conceptual recording process which has always found Schmidt producing his finest work. "Winterreise" is a follow-up of sorts, also for Raster Noton, this time clocking in at just under an hour and producing, without doubt, Schmidt's most beautiful material in years. Conceptually, both Raster albums connect with the work of Schubert (there are, apparently, fragments, notes, chord samples used sparingly through the recordings), with the album serving as a soundtrack to a series of photographs taken by Schmidt in 2010 during a tour of Europe (postcards of which are included inside the typically lavish Raster packaging). In the lastest issue of The Wire, Schmidt says of these recordings: "…i realised that all the textures i was making for the album had a romantic feeling…heavy and melancholy, but not sad...I realised it's because I used that millisecond of Schubert, and it turned into an oscillator for a texture - and I found that very interesting". The result is an almost continuous series of tracks that contain many Atom Heart signatures - tricky, complex production, recurring motifs, a pristine aesthetic - but never at the expense of the pervading atmosphere. The end result is genuinely absorbing and sublime, creating a mysterious trip through re-contextualised classicism and ambience that somehow manages never to sound forced. It tugs at your heartstrings without ever resorting to any obvious or self-indulgent arrangements, instead utilising a kind of semi-opaque compositinal style that has you lost in a haze of nostalgia before its end, leaving you with little recollection of how you got there. Beautiful music - a real treat for longtime Atom Heart fans and newcomers alike.