Before forming Schneider Kacirek as an extension of their shared musical vision, electronic musician Stefan Schneider and talented percussionist/synth player Sven Kacirek worked extensively together in Kenya, traveling to remote regions to document the traditional music of the country's indigenous people. After releasing several volumes of raw field recordings, the two sound collectors decided to funnel their obsession with African rhythms and tribal rituals into a far more electronic articulation, not relying on actual field recordings but reinterpreting some of their energy into dark, minimal electronic landscapes heavy on various forms of percussion. The duo members' respective pedigrees make sense for this project, with Schneider having worked extensively collaborating with some of Krautrock's biggest names as well as making ambient electronic pop for years with his own projects To Rococo Rot and Kreidler, and Kacirek crafting several rhythm-centric solo records under his own name. Debut album Shadows Documents finds the project utilizing synthesizers, programmed drum machines, and organic percussion instruments, all to extremely dark and minimal effect. Album opener "Doubles" sets the tone, a melodic pulse buried deeply beneath echoey cymbals and drum-machine clicks. Occasionally spare synth lines rise up, sounding extremely reminiscent of the alien tones of early Krautrock pioneers like Roedelius and Conny Plank. The more uptempo "To Microphone" leans more on the influence of minimal techno, buzzing with a staticky beat that Kacirek piles percussive flourishes on top of. The mesh of sounds and approaches is unconventional but never jarring. Polyrhythms borrowed from their Kenyan field recordings are played with sounds ranging from brushed snares to well-known drum-machine sounds from early hip-hop and dance music. The skeletal arrangements make every slight change in the songs pop enormously, be it several seconds of delay-heavy synth that rise up in the middle of "Low Rhythm" or the grumbling bass blurts that break up "We Will Need Each Other." All of the elements that hang in the corners for most of the album coagulate on closer "Spiegelmotiv." Here, joined by original Fela Kuti & Africa 70 percussionist Nicholas Addo-Nettey, Schneider Kacirek's dark rhythms and restrained synthesizers reach a full boil, rolling forward and creating a bleak atmosphere of excitement and menace. ~ Fred Thomas
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