Zoomer is the 2nd Schneider TM full-length album and was released in 2002 by City Slang in Europe and Mute in the U.S..
This was the official release-info:
It's time to blast preconceptions of electronica as cold, minimal, distant knob twiddling to oblivion once and for all, and Dirk Dresselhaus, aka Schneider TM, is just the man to do it. His second full length album, Zoomer, harnesses a sublimely modern depth of musical vision to the hard won wisdom of life experience. A proper album, developed over the course of three years, Zoomer is the sound of electronica, at last, with something to say.
"You've got to keep your heart open," Dirk says straight up, with his typical bulls-eye brevity. "When you're in a certain heightened state of sensitivity, you feel all the different sounds, melodies, and words. The trick then is to keep your ears open for the right moment when it all just happens to fall together and then get it on the hard drive. That's one of the main points of this record." What about genuinely crafted songwriting? Check. Pop hooks? Check. Catchy vocal melodies? Check. Wry humor? Check. Schneider TM brings a singer-songwriter sensibility for words and music to the ambitions of a sonic explorer. He calls it "chemical listening", being able to hear layers of ear-teasing, soul tickling sounds, threaded personal beliefs and hopes. The more you listen, the more you discover. It's hard to think of another artist in the field of electronica who has yet done come up with the goods as he does with blinding success.
Last year's 'Binokular' split mini album with long time musical foil KPT. Michi.Gan paved the way. Its stellar track was the stunning, and ubiquitous, 'The Light 3000', a breath-catching cover of The Smiths' 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out'. Perfectly pitched, its naïve, coolly glistening electronica deftly counterpoints the yearning, emotional recklessness of Morrissey's lyrics. 'The Light 3000' inadvertently gatecrashed the trashy bootleg / bastard-pop scene and offered something beating with sincerity. It spread virus-like to everyone from Desperate Soundsystem DJ Jarvis Cocker (who was quoted as saying he always used to it open his sets) to Rough Trade's genre-defining Electronica 01 compilation, came in at number 8 in John Peel's Festive 50, (that's as voted by listeners), and was embraced by everyone from die-hard indie fans to dance music softies and anyone who ever had a heart.
A veteran drummer, guitarist and singer in successful German bands since his teenage years in the late eighties, Dirk abandoned traditional song forms on his Schneider TM debut, the classically of its time 1998 instrumental album, Moist. Recording 'The Light 3000' gave him back his voice. It proved to be a breakthrough for him as well as a sign of things to come.
An integral point in Dirk's recording process was the age old struggle between the heart and the mind and how to strike a balance between the two with out compromising either one. As a result, Zoomer, for all it's electronic wizardry, is chock full of guitars and vocals, something that Binokular only hinted at. Both of these "organic" elements are then treated and morphed in to something that lies in between the analog & the digital worlds.
Shuggie Otis' heroic album 'Inspiration Information' was a key reference - the idea of the heart directing the mind, using cutting edge technology (Shuggie was famously one of the first practitioners of the drum machine) to express human frailties. Dirk discarded an entire studio set up to the bare essentials of a laptop and a few instruments in his living room, where over time, friends, neighbours and daily life become part of the music. "It's the best situation to record at home," he muses. "I wake up, have a coffee and am really inspired by dreams. I find that the best and most inspiring moments are between being sleep and awake, because it’s the time where consciousness and subconsciousness meet. This stage was very important for the recordings." This concept, one of reading between the lines or peering into the cracks where the real and the imagined are blurred, is what shapes the entire album. Where two disparate concepts melt together to form something entirely new.
Hence first single, 'Frogtoise', the freaky dream of splicing a frog onto a tortoise, a bass buzzing but melodically fragile tune layered with kaleidosopic harmonies, that began as a jam session with Kpt. Michi.Gan. Meanwhile, best friend and long time band mate, Christopher Uhe, dropped in to play bass on the swirling ecto-plasmal digitry of '999'.
Dirk's neighbour, Cati Aglibut, adds viola to 'Cuba TM', which also features the glorious sounds of Lambchop's pedal steel player, Paul Niehaus. A brief acquaintance during a special City Slang Radio One session in 2001 (where Niehaus spontaneously collaborated live with Schneider TM) resulted in a cross-Atlantic exchanging of tapes.
In later sessions, legendary Hamburg reggae and hip hop producer Mathias Arfman mixed several tracks. He draws out a pulsing dub current, notably in the sweetly fizzing 'DJ Guy' and in the stutter-bugging 'turn on' which stars maverick poet and musician Max Turner (formerly of the notorious Berlin hip hop outfit, Puppetmastaz).
"He's such a great rapper, or whatever he is!" Dirk laughs. "He doesn't want to be known as a rapper, because actually he's a great poet. He's half-Scottish, but he grew up in Hamburg. He hacks around with words so great, it's like Lego, but it makes meaning."
Let's not overlook Dirk's own lyrics. Deceptively simple, he cuts straight to the core of relationship struggles (check the insight of 'Abyss') and battles to remain true to your own soul (see the protest song hidden in 'Reality Check'), with just a few direct words. Ideas that leave you with a lingering sense of life affirming joy. As he sings on 'Cuba TM', "...to let the bowels spin, to Let love come in..."
"Two of my biggest influences are Lou Reed and Daniel Johnston," Dirk admits. "I was always influenced by English lyricists who used really simple words because I understood them best. Put simple words together and make the meaning clear. I tried to make Zoomer as positive as possible, but not blindly. You know, it seems easy when you're alone, but you totally get stuck, because you don't have any reflection. 'I'll Be Your Mirror'!" he quips. "That's the point. And it's really exhausting! But that's the only way."
With Zoomer, Schneider TM defies expectations of aural wallpaper electronica with a grace, passion, & wit that are the mark of a songwriter whose talents are in full bloom.
released September 1, 2002
music, words & production by dirk dresselhaus,
published by la chunga music publishing, except words in 5. by max turner, copyright control.
1., 2., 4., 5., 8. mixed w/ mathias arfmann at turtle bay country club, neuenfelde 2002,
3., 6., 7. mixed by d. dresselhaus at studioline, berlin 2002.
mastered by bo kondren at calyx, berlin.
2. contains a sample of a dr. drek session feat. Kptmichigan, 5. main vocals by max turner, 7. bassline by christopher uhe,
8. slide guitar by paul niehaus, violas by cati aglibut, electric piano by vredeber albrecht.
photos by tina winkhaus, booklet illustrations by d.dresselhaus,
cover design by elger emig & d.d.allin.
all rights reserved