The combined music composition and electronic production experiences of Dieter Moebius, Tim Story and Jon Leidecker total over 100 years, so it should come to little surprise that the three eventually collaborated. The album Snowghost Pieces is the result of several months of studio recordings in the US state of Montana. Eleven tracks of hypnotic, winding soundscapes synthesize the triumvirate’s knowledge into an understated work of electronic music.
Through his work with Hans-Joachim Roedelius in the seminal krautrock group Cluster, Moebius laid the foundations for much of modern electronica and techno. His contribution to Snowghost Pieces lies mostly in the glitchy subtleties and rhythmic conflagrations that continue to give the albums Zuckerzeit and Cluster II their charm 40 years after release. However, Snowghost Pieces is not another misguided yearning for the olden days that has characterized Brian Eno’s recent output (although the works are similarly influenced); tracks such as Cut Bank and Whelmed have a much more modern flair that demonstrates Meobius’ ability to adapt current trends in their grimy subtexts, as if he is writing footnotes on the modern electronic music climate.
This being said, it is important to remember that although Meobius clearly lead the collaboration, he did not seek to make another Cluster album; the contributions of Story and Leidecker are very important to Snowghost Pieces’ sound. Tim Story’s epithet as a master of electronic chamber music is well-deserved with respect to Snowghost Pieces: Fracture Fuss is downright cinematic, featuring a bevy of pulsating strings and electroacoustic crescendos. Jon Leidecker has collaborated with Negativland and Matmos under the Wobbly moniker, and he inserts a bit more of a polyrhythmic and experimental influence, as seen on Vex.
The album was composed through analogue and digital sounds, which is used to great effect on tracks such as Yaak, Flathead, and Vex. Of particular note is Yaak’s eerie, banshee-like backing, which is underscored by a steady heartbeat-like percussion that changes in tone as the song progresses. The piano of Fracture Fuss adds a great deal of ominousness to an already adrenaline-hyped track, especially against the whirring synths. Stereo sound is used to great effect as well, creating a nice sense of totality and space on Yaak and Defenestrate.
The strongest tracks expound upon existent trends and transcend the work of the three composers. For example, Olara takes inspiration from the danceable, polyrhythmic downtempo of artists such as CFCF and Heavenly Beat, with a bit more activity. Treadmill could have been the closer on Illum Sphere’s debut full-length from earlier this year. Cut Bank and Flathead were certainly influenced by IDM in their syncopated structures; the closest comparisons are Autechre’s work on Amber.
The two shortest tracks, Cliff Doze and Pinozeek, are disappointing. Perhaps it’s due to the length: all three collaborators’ more acclaimed works are not necessarily known for their brevity. On the other hand, Fracture Fuss, Flathead, and Vex have plenty of room for growth and development. Snowghost Pieces is an album based on the evolution of sound, and Cliff Doze and Pinozeek simply don’t have any room to grow, and they are even weaker in comparison to their immediate follow-ups Whelmed and Vex.
Snowghost Pieces is a thoroughly enjoyable production and one that equally rewards as a close, detailed listen or as furniture music. The synthesis of modern trends in addition to the combined studio experience of each collaborators shows that, even decades after starting the game, these three are not even close to finishing it.