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Atom Tm & Friends

Composer and designer Uwe Schmidt is one of experimental electronic music's most prolific and prodigious post-techno experimentalists. Issuing a flood of material under a variety of pseudonyms (from singles and compilation tracks to scads of EPs and full-lengths) and maintaining an almost daunting album-a-month release schedule through his own Rather Interesting label, Schmidt's discography has expanded into the hundreds despite the fact he's only been actively recording for just over a decade. Although his first instrument was a drum kit, Schmidt became fascinated with the possibilities of analog electronics early on, trading his set for a drum machine and borrowing a four-track and some keyboards from friends. His earliest tracks were dance music-focused -- primarily hardcore techno, acid, and trance -- but by the mid-'90s his sound had departed from the monochromaticism of typical dancefloor fare into dense, complex, multi-layered sound constructions not easily reducible to any one genre. Incorporating elements of techno, acid, ambient, jazz, funk, electro,'60 exotica, and psychedelic rock, Schmidt's current work, though highly rhythmic, is hardly classifiable as dance music at all, lying at the intersection of a sort of future-anterior auteurism and tongue-in-cheek experimentalism unique in contemporary electronica.

Although prolific since his first singles as I, Atomu Shinzo, Bi-Face, and Mike McCoy, Atom Heart began stepping up his production in the early to mid-'90s in association with the noted trance and ambient label Fax, also based in Frankfurt. Through a number of solo and collaborative outings with Tetsu Inoue and label-head Pete Namlook, Schmidt helped to formulate the melodic hard trance and techno sounds associated with the Frankfurt scene, and also had the opportunity to dabble in other forms of electronic experimentation, particularly ambient (to which Fax almost wholly shifted its focus). He released a handful of Fax titles during this period -- including Orange, Datacide, Softcore, and Coeur Atomique -- before Namlook established the Rather Interesting label as a subsidiary of Fax dedicated to Atom Heart-related projects. Although he continues to release material under other names as well (most notably as Lassigue Bendthaus and the Lisa Carbon Trio), his focus remained on Rather Interesting, releasing a somewhat bewildering (given the consistent quality) CD every month and forging a sophisticated, singular aesthetic. Although each title was limited to a 1000-copy pressing, many of them are among the most accomplished, original examples of post-techno experimental electronic music available, utilizing complex split-channel effects and integrated melodic and rhythmic shifts with an iterative, almost mathematical (though never simply derived) eclecticism. During 1999 and 2000, Schmidt earned a higher profile among American listeners with the release of several projects, beginning with Flanger's Templates (recorded with Bernd Friedman of Nonplace Urban Field) on the Ninja Tune sublabel Ntone. In 2000, two covers albums -- Pop Artificielle as lb and El Baile Aleman as Señor Coconut y Su Conjunto -- gained a comparatively wide release. The former, distributed through Shadow, featured synth pop covers of pop hits including Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" and David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes"; the latter, an Emperor Norton release, focused on Kraftwerk songs, performed by Heart's Latin alias Señor Coconut. His Dos Tracks personality released it's debut album the following year, but it wasn't available outside of his website until 2002. Schmidt has also, with less frequency, given his hand to remixing, working over tracks from the likes of Prong, Pankow, the Swamp Zombies, and Resistance D. ~ Sean Cooper, Rovi
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