Sometimes making music is more than assembling and coordinating sounds that result (hopefully) in pleasing results. Neuzeit, a collaboration between German electro-acoustic composer J. Peter Schwalm and Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen moves in that direction.
The word "neuzeit" is generally taken to mean the "modern era" that began with the rise of Western Civilization in the sixteenth century. But Schwalm's "new time" seems to take that definition on a more literal level. That new time is now, deep in the Anthropocene, a time of tumultuous uncertainties and political upheavals and treacheries that trickle down from the top. Add to this a virulent pandemic and the potential catastrophe of climate change.
"Neuzeit reflects a time of change after a crash," Schwalm says. Though a crash could be the start of a decline of epic proportions, Schwalm takes a more positive view. "The cards are reshuffled again; changes in any direction are possible. There are opportunities to get things right again."
The album was crafted at different locations, due to the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. Phone conversations were followed by swapped sound files that were ultimately assembled, mixed and edited by Schwalm. The sound is as deep in the Anthropocene as it gets, leaning perhaps beyond that age, into one where electronic entities, machines (A.I.) and man become co-equals in an even newer age. The music has an orchestral quality, yet there is no orchestra involved. The atmospherics come, in large part, from Schwalm's studio machinations.
"Soundscapes" are the best description of this music. Henriksen, with decades of ambient soundscape artistry behind him, is no stranger to the ideas that Schwalm electro-mailed his way. His distinctive trumpet approach is ghostly and resonant, something drifting in likewise, patient, eons-old howlings from deep space. Schwalm crafts and adds his subtle artificial intelligence harmonies: ringing, otherworldly piano interludes and throbbing electronics that sound as if they were recorded in a cavern, on an asteroid, perhaps, where the relentless nano-bot operations roll on.
The title tune sounds like an awakening, a beginning, a new blossoming, a time of post cataclysmic peace. "Suchzeit" opens with Henriksen's breathy trumpet probings of Schwalm's "brimming with mystery and hope" world, where possibilities and a way forward wait.