Schnellertollermeier’s album Rights reminds me of a (marginally) more rocky version of David Lang (check out “Warmth”). Maybe the link to classical minimalism is a tenuous one, but it illustrates the feel of this album better than any other comparison I could think of – this is an album of layering rhythms, delays, percussively played electric guitar, and long burn builds and releases. It’s marvelous.
With a penchant for tracks as long as their name, Schnellertollermeier opens Rights with an eponymous piece of jazz grind. Unrelenting repeats and minor variations spiral out into something completely other than its beginnings over the course of thirteen minutes, before breaking into syncopated staccatos on bass and scratchy breakdowns on the guitar. This isn’t easy listening, nor is it the kind of thing you can mosh to; I began the album thinking that it would make for some great background music, and that was a complete misjudgement of how interesting it is to listen to. It’s perfect, though, if you’re looking for the technical, encapsulating, and angsty soundtrack to three talented musicians deconstructing what you thought you knew about time signatures.
There’s a reason it’s only marginally more rocky (see above), and that’s a comparison to their previous output, X. Rights feels more considered – it’s not an all-out outpouring of angst, but a menacing and driving album that knows when to pull back and leave you hanging at the crucial moments. And it’s so much better for it, because it means that on songs like “Rights”, they let the guitar player (Manuel Troller) break out of the clockwork repeats and tremolo picking into an almost ethereal, spine-shivering upscale run. Alternatively, see the gorgeous harmonics on the tracks “Piccadilly Sources” and “Praise / Eleven”: allowing ostinatos to repeat over and over without breaking into full scale distorted thrashing as often helps train the focus on exactly what is being played. On an album like this, that’s exactly what you will be wanting to listen for. This approach contributes to the sense that this isn’t just another instrumental rock album that really needs a singer to be anything special; this is an excellent work in itself.
No record is perfect, and the main detractor from the album is its closer: “Round”. Once again, harmonics (but this time dissonant ones) resound for the ten-minute duration of the song. Dissonance has already come up in the album at one point in “Praise / Eleven”, and it seemed a little at risk of feeling like a wrong note before you realize it’s meant to be there – the queen of all wrongs when using dissonance in music. In “Praise / Eleven”, it doesn’t matter at all after the five seconds it takes to get over it; in “Round”, however, this intentional usage is not that enjoyable. There is a point at which auditory art (which this album is certainly attempting to be, and, I think, succeeding) must make some concessions to creating bearable aural experiences, even if it’s at the expense of being able to play notes in what would normally be considered the wrong scales. When using dissonance, there might be reasons to include some interplay between the dissonant and non-dissonant, to allow the dissonant parts to have some distinguishable effect on the listener. Instead, “Round” presents only dissonance, and in gratuity.
Saying that ‘that’s just the one song’ may seem glib when discussing a four-song album, but seriously – that’s just the one song. And who knows, maybe you’ll love it. Regardless, the first three songs on Rights are excellent, and will pay you back bountifully for the attention you really won’t be misplaced in giving them.
Notable Tracks: “Rights”, “Piccadilly Sources”, “Praise / Eleven”
FFO: David Lang, Philip Glass, Lucius Fox