Atom TM – Liedgut

Atom TM – Liedgut

(Raster Norton)

 

It starts, hardly promisingly, with the hiss you get when the television is on the blink. But then the hiss begins to pulse, and from this pulse a drone emerges. Emerging from the drone is a vocodered voice speaking German. Welcome to Atom TM’s latest album, Liedgut.

 

Atom TM, otherwise known as Uwe Schmidt, otherwise known as Senor Coconut and many more aliases besides, has created a wonderful new album for the Raster Norton label. No Coconut style fripperies here, although there is a connection with Senor’s first album (of Kraftwerk covers) as Florian Schneider himself turns up to say a word or two. The Kraftwerk connection goes deeper than this however and Schmidt has openly acknowledged their influence on Liedgut.

 

On first listen a churlish person might suggest that what Schmidt has done is focus on Radioactivity’s less tuneful tracks. Of the twenty brief songs that make up the album a fair degree are made up of clicks and glitches, sounding at times like a miniature pinball machine on the verge of breaking down. The strangest sound, and one that is quite disconcerting at first, is that a mobile phone. It’s the sound (interference of some kind) the phone makes just before it rings and Schmidt converts it what I saw one reviewer describe as a funk track. Well, I’m not sure that Bootsy would recognise it as funk – the album is on the Raster Norton label after all. After a while songs do begin to emerge through the blips and the static. Not pop songs, certainly, but rather distant echoes of classical music, waltzes and bossa nova tracks. Whilst this is done in a careful and considered way, it is not to say that there are not moments of fun on the album. The drunken waltz of Mittlere Composition No. II is both rigorous and bonkers in its own way.

 

The final third of the album is in effect one song. Prefaced again by the pulsing static that started the album, the final five tracks even have a beat. And it’s a jaunty beat too. Over it are more vocodered German vocals (alas my German isn’t good enough to work out what is being said when the word ‘Dinger’ is mentioned). The voice is incredibly mechanical (and yet also soulful) – it sounds like a broken machine from the past telling stories of its life. These final tracks really are hypnotically wonderful.

 

In fact the whole album is pretty wonderful. It manages to be both avant garde and fun at the same time. Whilst it tips its hat to the past it is actually a brilliantly modern piece of work. Which is what we need when most electronic albums of the moment (good though many of them are) are in thrall to the technology and sounds of an earlier age.

 

Words: Chris Dawson