Schema - "Schema" (5 Rue Christine Records, 2000)

From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)

I first heard "Echolalia... Curvilinear", the album's middle-piece mondo-jam, on a fellow-DJ's show and for a moment thought I was both at the station and at home at once. I soon became aware that this was a collaboration of the groups Stereolab (singer Mary Hansen) and Hovercraft (Campbell 2000, Sadie 7 and Dash 11). And having since heard some Hovercraft, I see that the music here is not far from that basic sound, though more condensed and excessible.

The album begins with "Unde", a loose jam that immediately brings krautrock to mind with the Guru Guru tink-tink-tinkling of beyond-the-fretboard spacey notes and shriekingly acidic guitar, all accompanied by the "da-da-da" wordless vocals of Mary. This is bridged by a few moments of cosmicness into the rhythm of a down-tone evil bass line. Following is "We Think We're Sane", which we could just shrug off as "electronica", as there's a dancable ryhthm, but combined with the rest of the song's elements, it comes across as quite unique-sounding, providing the song with not just a beat but a groove. Back to some looser jamming is the above-mentioned "Echolalia... Curvilinear", the sole "stretch-out" piece at around 12 minutes, which introduces some even more over-the-top screech-guitar, Gong-like glissando guitar and another wicked bass-line in the spirit of early Amon Duul II. With this formula we run through several distinct phases before morphing into improvised preparation for a SPECIAL MOMENT IN MUSIC which provides a singular mantra unlike anything I've heard before. Mary's vocal here repeats the song's title, twisting between normal voice and a fantastic watery female-android effect; jaw-dropping.

Next is "Far From Where We Began", featuring a Neu!-like drum-beat, hypnotic keyboard rhythm and some more wordless voice from Mary, which provides more of a link to some modern indie-rock. As it cools down, it segues into the closing track "Getting Smart", sporting a programmed beat, more undulating space-wave, guitar plinking and the now-familiar ethereal voice. Severely recommended, and for a single-session listen it's a perfect and refreshing 36 minutes.

Contact at 5 Rue Christine, POB 1190, Olympia, Wa, 98507-1190.

Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg

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