Kubusschnitt - The Singularity
This is a pre-release CD (it's a CD-R), so what you get when it's officially released may be different. First of all, there'll be song titles. :-)
1) PHASE 01 (01:04)
My thanks go out to the gracious Andy Bloyce for sending along this CD for my collection. I've ordered the other two Kubusschnitt CDs as well as the wEirD CD (all yet to arrive), of which Andy is a part. "The Singularity" was basically my first Kubusschnitt album experience, so I had no idea what to expect.
"The Singularity" alternates between long Schulze-like sequences and quieter sections and noises. That's not surprising, since Kubusschnitt members Andy Bloyce, Ruud Heij, Tom Coppens, and Jens Peschke are all fans of Klaus Schulze and the Berlin School of EM.
So a track will start rather quiet, perhaps with a few noises tossed in, then you'll get the sequence going. Leads alternate over the top, and Andy's guitar work is featured prominently, trading with synthesizer lead lines.
Generally the tracks are mixed together, giving the CD an overall "flowing" wax-and-wane feel which I like very much. The keyboard layering is rather basic. It's as if the musicians set out to give you "just enough" in the way of instrumentation to fill up the sound between halfway and 3/4 to get the musical ideas across.
Ruud and Jens handle a lot of the sequencing, which Andy informs me is done pretty much "live". You'll notice the layered sequences on this album---something I'm only beginning to mess about with myself. (Firing up one is hard enough, now add a second, and do it real-time?)
Pretty much all of Kubusscnitt's work is done live to DAT, and Andy has his hands full teasing out the good bits for eventual CD release. Although the CD was created in this way, its sound quality is excellent, but it does have the slight disadvantage of being a bit "flat". Injecting a bit of "air" into a 2-track recording is difficult, but they do what they can. Still the instruments are spread in the stereo spectrum, effects are used judiciously, and the sound and overall mix are very clear. Another side-effect of this recording technique, the sequences and musical passages don't tend to vary a lot, although there are instruments added in and slight changes made as the music progresses. Changes take place slowly and don't tend to affect the basic sequence in a track.
PHASE 01 starts off the album with a swirling, distorted synth growl, eventually interrupted by PHASE 02 with an acoustic guitar sound and a bouncy, flutey synthesizer. The music begins to fill in with pads, and finally a lead and some Mellotron flute appear over the top. The structure is serious, yet tenuous and a bit hesitant, changing over time, a bit reminiscent of the opening to Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells". Sequences begin to heat up a little and drive the music along, and things become a bit hurried (compared to the gentle start), and here we have more of the "just enough" instrumentation, layered sequences, and lead work which punctuates a majority of "The Singularity".
An annoyed, low synth marks the beginning of PHASE 03. Bright sequences and nice pads swing in almost immediately, and we're off on a Schulze-inspired 10-minute ride of cymbal-punctuated sequencing. Some choppily played piano joins the mix as well, fading into a pad-underpinned lead with a oboe-like timbre. It's here that we're also introduced to Andy's guitar work, which blends in much better and is of much higher quality than the guitar work of Edgar "Root Canal via Stratocaster" Froese. PHASE 04 fades in with an almost vocoder-like phrasing, then it churns out some reverb-filled "Rubycon"-esque synth tones sans sequences as PHASE 05 tees up with its own collection of ring modulated synth noises and becomes a bit spooky. Things begin to get back on track with an organ sound, layered sequences, a Mellotron-like sound dodging in and out, and synth and guitar leads, building and falling away.
PHASE 06 takes over as the previous track completely fades out, and here we have resonant filter sweeps and other synth noises to bridge us over to PHASE 07, which starts with a low synth with a phased filter sweep over the top. Mellotron voices fade in, joined by drums, cymbals, and sequencing, coming to an end as Mellotron voices fade away into PHASE 08. Synth noises and lead guitar over a phasey Solina-like backdrop give way to a single, non-layered tight bass sequence with more pads and leads, akin to something Air Sculpture might put together. It's perhaps the most densely layered track on the album, and, at over 15 minutes, it's the longest. Instruments fade in and out, and our wonderful bassline synth becomes filtered into nothingness by the end, where some incredible voice-like pads bring us into the final phase.
PHASE 09 is pretty much Andy's creation. The other Kubusschnitters weren't available, and a track was needed for a compilation album, and thus PHASE 09 was laid down. Andy used the Nord for the voice-like pads and paralleled the Prophecy and Pulse for the wonderful bass-filled sequence sound. The track starts mysteriously with the echoey voice-like pads, eventually buoyed by a single beefy sequenced bassline. Andy's lead guitar gets meaty and serious in order to break out from that bassline, which evolves a little as the track goes on, eventually joined by a wild synth lead, coming to the rather unusual end of a repeated measure and a fade out. Yes, it was intentional, as it was needed for the compilation album. But it's an interesting effect nonetheless, and it did leave me scratching my head.
The remaining few minutes of PHASE 09 were done by Andy and Jens, consisting of whale sounds with a few phasey synth passages, recorded off-the-cuff, according to Andy. Somehow this doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the CD, but that's OK, and it's always interesting when artists toss stuff like this in there!
"The Singularity", with its flowing nature, reined-in synthesizers, occasional Mellotron sounds, the not "overdone-ness", and good sequencing make it a fine candidate for the headphones while I'm working. In fact, I've worked on sections of my website and this review while it was on. Overall the work didn't grab me emotionally as other CDs have, although PHASE 09 with its heavier TD-like sequencer and interesting synthesizer sounds which sound similar to those used on a Ric Ocasek solo album intrigued me to the point where it has become my favorite track from the album.
The Kubusschnitt web site (currently down) has sound snippets from "The Singularity," their other two albums, and the wEirD CD. Drop by to check 'em out and for more information!
Thanks to Andy Bloyce for the additional insight into the recording of "The Singularity". Always interesting to hear how it's done and what goes on behind the scenes!
...kl...February 10, 2001