Soma’s reputation for picking up worldwide techno talent is about to get another shot in the arm through the Portland-based, Italian-born Stephen Schieberl. The great outdoors would seem to be his theme, but this music is far from pastoral.
If you go on a picnic with Schieberl there could well be vodka hidden in the strawberries and cream, and the jam sandwiches might well have rogue anchovies in them. For Schieberl has the ability to switch between blissfully ambient sound pictures and vocal samples that verge on the downright alarming.
Not a bad thing, you understand, for that makes him less than predictable, and that’s a considerable advantage in a field where it’s easy to keep to the same level of programmed music, competent but a little featureless. Schieberl doesn’t do featureless, and his soundscapes are complemented by spoken word or sung snippets.
I’ll Lick Your Spine might not be a title for the squeamish but actually turns out to be a rather sleazy vocal number that will strike a chord with any Fatal Attractionists out there. Schieberl’s offbeat chords complement the half-whispered vocal perfectly, with a breakbeat that gives the track a curious, liquid energy and a deeply atmospheric backing
Towards the end of the record he shows himself to be an electronic orchestrator of great subtlety. Crashing is a blissful piece, its fast foreground synth loops projected over background washes of colour that give the impression of movement against the stars. Still Up becomes one of those 4am pieces where the bed beckons, but the listener doesn’t have the energy to move there. My Friend also excels here, though Cotton Jenny’s vocal may be a bit too downbeat for some tastes.
On the other side of the fence sits Girls Don’t Like Me. It’s little wonder, with a vocal sample that makes Frank Bruno sound like a lofty soprano and rumbling, threatening beats that refuse to go away. You Make Me Struggle is hardly easy listening either, but packs quite a punch with its disembodied voice and white noise around the edges.
My First Time and Like My Creep also muscle in with beats aplenty, the former with big, booming percussion and the latter with a bass boom that muscles in after a while and takes over.
For a debut album A Picnic With The Hunters has most impressive scope, ambition and structure. To blend delicate nocturnal with more disconcerting music that tends toward the industrial makes for an interesting blend, and presents Schieberl as a flexible electronic music artist well worth keeping an eye on.