Paul Schütze has worked for over thirty years on the fringes of the field of experimental music – alongside parallel work in photography, video and installation – and he shows no signs of selling out yet.
Hailing from Australia and a founding member of cult bands Laughing Hands and of Phantom City, he’s worked with everyone from Bill Laswell and Lol Coxhill to Max Eastley, Jah Wobble and David Toop. His latest offering has an environmental theme, apparently drawing on the Nordic myths of Ragnarök in which the earth is subsumed by water as a consequence of divine conflict, which although is an anoient tale seems to have much relevance to the planet’s plight as the global warming catastrophe begins to take hold.
There’s only one, epic 56-minute track, and, as you might expect from someone whose label is called Glacial Movements, it moves almost imperceptibly along with its narrative while being eerie listening throughout. Using sound to paint pictures, Schütze seems to have confined us to a claustrophobic jungle cave at first, where water drips down the walls and noises of great foreboding happen at sudden intervals. Eventually it moves into more wide open territory, but even then, the long, searing synthesiser notes – there are echoes of Vangelis’ ‘Bladerunner’ score here – seem to have a note of discord and imminent jeopardy. Trouble in paradise, for sure.
It’s what you might call ambient music except that far from being sonic wallpaper or even a reassuring, calming presence, this unnerving symphony creeps into your consciousness and twists your mood without mercy. Play it in a chill out room and you’ll have the casualties running for the St John’s Ambulance!
Paul Schütze might be a strange cause to champion on a site devoted to more punk rock sensibilities, but ‘The Sky Torn Apart’ is far from hippy dippy thinking. It’s sharp and undiluted, and all too easy to get sucked into. Uneasy listening anybody?!
Cover photo by Bjarne Riesto
Sleeve design by Rutger Zuydervelt
Text by Ben Willmott