Artist photo Martin Schiller 2024 copy

Strap in and prepare for a sonic whiplash. Martin Schiller’s latest album ‘Abstracted’ is a mind-bending trip to the far-flung frontiers of sound—a place where music isn’t just heard, but felt in your bones. This ain’t your grandma’s easy listening. Schiller’s like a mad scientist, a sonic alchemist, splicing together glitches, drones, and textures you never knew existed to create soundscapes that defy description.

“Working with sound and seeing how it can be manipulated and transformed has always been a fascinating part of the music making process to me,” Schiller reveals. “While I was working on my last album, I was focused on making more structured and melodic tunes, but I also found myself wanting to play with sonic material without any preconceived structures in mind.”

 

This unstructured approach is the beating heart of ‘Abstracted.’ It’s an album that revels in its own entropy, where traditional instrumentation is eschewed in favor of pure sound design. “This Abstracted stuff doesn’t really have any real instrumentation featured, I’m not playing any bass, guitars or drums,” Schiller explains. “It’s more like an album built from sound design from an experimental science fiction film, or field recordings from another dimension.”

Yet, amidst the chaos, there’s an undercurrent of emotional resonance. Unbeknownst to Schiller at the time of the album’s creation, his father was diagnosed with Atypical Parkinsonism. “In hindsight though, I do think that there are themes I was unconsciously exploring that dealt with grief in a broad way (maybe more to do with COVID grief and fatigue), that also resonated with my eventual experiences with processing the grief of losing my dad,” he reflects.

This subconscious exploration of grief is most palpable in the track “Gone Places.” The accompanying video, a haunting collage of old home videos, adds another layer of poignancy. “Something about the material felt like it was connected to this music; I felt like I wanted to revisit and connect with my past and the experiences that I don’t fully remember but did have a record of,” Schiller muses. “It resonated for me on some level because I had been feeling like my mind was sometimes in multiple places, reflecting a lot on the past while I was also preoccupied with my present reality.”

The pandemic lockdowns played a crucial role in shaping ‘Abstracted.’ “It was during the first lockdowns that there was this moment of feeling of ‘well, we don’t know what’s about to happen next and how long this will last, so let’s see what projects we can complete,’” Schiller recounts. “It took a while to listen through and find selections that I liked the most. Eventually I started to see a picture emerging of how these things all fit together, and gradually just kept working until I was happy with calling it finished.”

The result is an album that transcends genre, an audacious blend of ambient, noise, glitch, and experimental styles. “I think it’s just the way I naturally approach music making, and that probably has to do with a lot of music that I listen to,” Schiller explains. “I enjoy a lot of artists that take a similar approach of combining the serious and the playful, the experimental and the traditional. I tend to want a sense of contrast and balance. If there’s a lot of tension, there needs to be release, if there’s a lot of noise, there needs to be some quiet.”

‘Abstracted’ unfolds in two distinct halves, each contributing to the overall narrative of the album. “It felt important to create a sense of balance for the sequencing of this album, and so the first six tracks are all on the shorter side,” Schiller explains. “It opens with a track called Estranger, which is designed to set the tone for the next 30 minutes or so. The next five tracks take the listener to some contrasting but familiar areas, and the first half ends with Gone Places which has some gloomy drones and some hazy rhythms. The focus of the second half is a drum loop that has been dismantled and taken to extremes of entropy, reordered and transformed before we end up in a space that is calmer but never fully resolved.”

Artwork_Abstracted (cover)Schiller’s musical journey has been a diverse one, from his dynamic bass performances with What Seas What Shores to his multimedia collaborations with the Noiseborder Ensemble. “My time at the University of Windsor was very influential,” he reflects. “A lot of what I think I took away from my time there was just seeing someone having a plan, a clear workflow and watching them execute it while getting to help out.”

His involvement with the Noiseborder Ensemble’s multimedia performances has also shaped his approach to music and collaboration. “I learned some new skills that I wouldn’t have learned outside of that world, learning some Max-MSP programming for instance, and being forced to think a little differently in how to approach working within a multidisciplinary group and with a stricter timeline,” he explains.

Under the moniker The Greedy Echoes, Schiller released the mini-album ‘Early Reflections’ in 2019, a project that showcases his penchant for prog-rock with jazz and third-stream influences. “The material from 2019 could get a little bit rhythmically complicated in terms of arrangements, and had some sections for solos and improvisation,” he explains. “I do feel like I want to revisit a band set up and revive some of the material because I really love it, and I think it’s a lot of fun to play.”

Collaboration has been a constant theme in Schiller’s career. “I think it’s beneficial to learn how to help support someone else’s ideas in the spirit of cooperation. It helped me to grow and learn from other people because of the different experiences and perspectives they can bring,” he muses. “Oftentimes the results of collaboration can be greater than the sum of its parts.”

Schiller’s move from Windsor to Detroit has also had a profound impact on his creative process. “I am starting to meet a lot of Detroit area musicians and finding a great spirit of experimentation and collaboration here,” he says. “There is also a lot of free improvisation here which has been a fascinating element, and I feel like that has pushed me a little bit more in that direction.”

The city’s rich musical history and cultural landscape have also influenced his work. “I feel like I’m just beginning to collaborate with the local scene. I have been jamming a little with some people and a bit with Ben Miller’s groups which involves some written material and open improvisation. There’s so much music happening it can be a bit overwhelming, and I feel like I’m still finding my footing,” he admits.

Reflecting on his time in Windsor, Schiller acknowledges the city’s impact on his development as an artist. “Windsor can be a small place, but it did have a lot of independent spirit and do-it-yourself attitude that has contributed quite a bit to my approach,” he says.

“Growing up in Windsor gave me a unique exposure to the Canadian music industry but also a heavy influence from Detroit radio and television stations. Electronic music and jazz were always in the air. I can’t overstate how much access to the range of musical diversity has shaped my tastes.”

Looking to the future, Schiller envisions a continued evolution of his sound. “I hope there will be a combination of collaborations with other artists as well as deepening my own musical language,” he says. “I am keen on exploring both electronic music and music composed for musicians, and I hope to develop a set up that will allow me to adapt material to be performed for live solo performances.”
In the end, ‘Abstracted’ stands as a testament to Schiller’s uncompromising vision, a sonic journey that challenges the listener to redefine their understanding of music. It’s a work that demands active engagement, a willingness to surrender to the unknown. And in that surrender, one might just find a glimmer of transcendence amidst the chaos.

As seen in the April 2024 issue:

519 Issue 67 March 2024 cover 2.0

 

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