September Collective | GEOG27 | Released: 06/09/04
September Collective may well be the most beautiful electronic record of the year. It features Stefan Schneider (To Rococo Rot and Mapstation), Barbara Morgenstern, and Polish born musician, Paul Wirkus, in a series of improvisations which originated from the encores they played together while touring Poland as three solo projects. At a time when improvisation often seems more about the musicians? egos than the music, September Collective is all about melody, rhythm, surprise, context; and it's impossible to listen to without imagining a time or a place. Perhaps because it was recorded there, it starts to feel Polish. Sleeve artist, Alison Mitchell, seems to have imagined a pastoral neo-1960s world which we sometimes see in the incredible Polish screen prints of that time.
In other ways this record, which is by three absolutely modern musicians, has a soft-focus melancholy about it; in the outro of The Return for instance, an acoustic guitar suddenly seeps into the mix affecting the whole sound and recalling comedown moments in soundtracks by John Barry and Ennio Morricone. It also touches on Schneider and Morgenstern's recent work with Bill Wells, and on Wirkus's Intelletto D'Amore set. In the process, each musician is constantly adding something; a melody line, an atmosphere, a forward propulsion, and the whole of the record is always fluid and three-dimensional. Part of the September Collective magic is that it's never that easy to identify which member is doing what, although one thing all three members pay attention to is melody.
Recently The Wire identified Wirkus as one of the true pioneers of laptop based music, comparing him to Fennesz in his ability to zoom out from the technical moment of the glitch, and to present a picture of the music which is taking place. Although less concerned with the glitch, this description applies equally well to Schneider who always seems to instinctively know exactly where he is in a piece of music, and has expertly added low-end melody lines and morse code signals to To Rococo Rot, and a complete design in his own Mapstation project. Morgenstern's music is perhaps the most eclectic of the trio, switching between an almost neo-classical sense of music structure and the avant-pop brilliance of her three Monika albums. If the September Collective always has a good energy or momentum, it's hard not to imagine Morgenstern driving things forward, and never allowing things to become stuck in the static moment.
In its improvised roots, the September Collective always had an air of unrepeatable coincidence, but the fact that the coincidences were so memorable has inspired the group members to continue working together. No-one in the September Collective views it as a side-project and the quest is already underway to coincide once more.