“Membranophonic Experience” is the brainchild of German multi-instrumentalist Hans Jorg Schmitz recording under the moniker ‘King Of Agogik’.
While his forte is percussion, even going so far as to call the album – “A Drummers Little Egotrip” – Schmitz does a lion’s share of the keyboards, some guitar, and a wide array of sounds and sampling.
Also along for the cosmic ride are guest musicians Dirk Wilms (guitars, bass, mandolin, Ebow), Volker Cornet (Rickenbacker Bass), and Pantelis Petrakakis (Bass and guitar).
Schmitz describes his music as "instrumental prog/art rock/fusion – a mental challenge for the open minded" - and I must admit it is a bit of a challenge to get through the whole thing.
Schmitz is an amazing musician, but the helter skelter compositions jump abruptly from one idea to another with little regard for transition. It’s as though snippets of ideas were tossed into a Cuisinart food processor, then poured throughout various spots of the compositions with little rhyme or reason. Just when you get something musical to latch onto he switches gears, sprinkling in extended dialogue samples over his impressive manic drumming. In a flash Schmitz then transports us on an altogether new musical plane – all within the span of a two or three minute tune.
There are 18 tunes on the 73:57 CD with a majority under three minutes – some as short as 1:09, 1:56, 1:32, 1:22 … yet within that minimal span of time the music dances kinetically from one idea to another without ever congealing into a single line of melody.
There is an excessive amount of sampled dialogue throughout the CD for my taste. Blocks of dialogue intermingled with bass and drum patterns do not make for an interesting listening experience.
A real pain to get through was “Me And The Birch” - a 10:14 drum solo.
An entire track consisting of a ten minute drum solo on a studio album (and not a live concert performance) truly is a ‘drummer’s little ego trip’ – and not something likely to be of interest to someone outside Schmitz’s family, die-hard fans, or tight circle of friends. I know I’ll never listen to that track again.
Yet with all the negative comments there are some truly inspired moments on the CD, and a few excellent tunes which would appeal to progressive rock enthusiasts.
“Mc Wok (Voyage To Innocence)” is a Grand Scale Epic 14:03 track loaded with pleasant surprises – power, passion, complexity, and brilliant performances from Schmitz and his supporting cast.
“The Lobero” is a beautiful 7:31 orchestral composition, unlike anything on the CD, reminding me of something from the Enid album (Godfrey & Stewart) “The Seed And The Sower”. “Mc Wok (Return To The Whales) is another inspired cosmic piece reminiscent of early Ozric Tentacles.
Unfortunately “Membranophonic Experience” concludes with an absolutely horrendous tune “On The Past”, featuring Schmitz' powerhouse drumming while some girl caterwauls a funeral dirge with more audio samples scattered throughout - accentuating all the negative elements about the CD compressed into that one final tune.
Anyone who ever owned an 8 Track Tape Player may remember the term 'cross-talk' … hearing two or more tracks playing at the same time ... well that’s the best way to describe “On The Past” … and to some extent – much of Membranophonic Experience”.
For the more adventurous listener among us this is well worth a listen – if for no other reason than to appreciate the quality musicianship throughout. The weakness, as I pointed out - are the compositions.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on December 2nd, 2006