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Forest Full Of Drums . Paul Wirkus & Mapstation


staubgold 85
2008. cd . dl . lp

Paul Wirkus: drums, cymbals, branches, leaves, air improvisations - Stefan Schneider (Mapstation): steps, recording, editing, mixing

"Everything was already there. The trees, the wind, the birds, the muddy soil, the undergrowth, playing children, people taking walks, the distant hum of a motorway and airplanes above.

We arrived there as beginners. We had to wait for the right weather, to look for a good spot, to practice patience, to carry the drum kit through the bush and to set it up and start playing and recording. Daylight was all that was needed.

It had begun as a fantasy, a vague and simple picture that you carry with you. Derived from the joy of being outside in nature: a drum kit standing in a forest. What would it sound like if you play and record it there? The forest as a resonating space. A room where you are inside and outside at once. Sometimes it looks like a friendly home and at other times becomes an eerie sea.

A space in which the ancient sounds of the world meet the sounds of civilization. If you stand in one spot it is difficult to recognize where the sounds are coming from and whom or what they belong to. Playing and recording there was very far from being in a perfectly controlled studio situation. First we started hitting the drums we brought and then later on we started picking up sticks and branches, tossing around big logs and becoming curious about what they would sound like. The forest had slowly changed our initial ideas in an elegant way. It enabled us to make music with just what we found and what was there. In the very moment that we wanted to do it, we simply had to dive into it, look underneath. Then the world became a bigger place than it was before."

Paul Wirkus

Paul Wirkus' background as an improvising percussionist still informs the pointillist perfection of his output, developed through a series of solo albums and extremely varied collaborations with Barbara Morgenstern and Stefan Schneider (Mapstation) as September Collective and the free jazz trio with Kammerflimmer Kollektief's Johannes Frisch and Mikolaj Trzaska. His previous musical history includes performances with Polish punk group Karcer and late 1990s post-rock group Mapa, which may account for his favouring a live, lo-fi approach to recording.


In 1999 Stefan Schneider (To Rococo Rot, Kreidler) discovered the possibilities offered by the arpeggiator mode of his analogue synthesizer, directing patterns of random notes to the oscillators to create unpredictable pulses, distortions, superb disorder.

To approximate the spontaneity and chaos of real life, Schneider decided to take a step back as composer and let the machine make most of the musical decisions.

Soon, the resulting simple basslines began to seep into Stefan's occasional DJ sets - at the time mostly a blend of electronic sounds (1950's - Detroit techno) and a capella versions of reggae 12" singles - and finally turned into a complete live set.

In early 2000 the owner of notable London-based label Soul Static Sound, Darryl Moore (D), asked Stefan to record a self-titled mini album, which was released a few months later during a UK tour with Vladislav Delay. On the strength of this recording Stefan was approached by minimalist electronics label Staubgold, who later relocated from Cologne to the German capital of Berlin, and their fertile partnership lead to three consecutive albums between 2001 and 2003.

On 'A Way To Find The Day' (2002) Schneider decided to explore his take on contemporary reggae music (he considers it a form of electronic music) in a collaboration with singer Ras Donovan. Introduced by their mutual friend Bernd Jestram of Tarwater, whose studio expertise both had previously relied on, Donovan and Schneider later continued their exploration of uncharted territories with “Version Train” (2003), which featured abstractions of their previous set in the Jamaican 'versioning' tradition. Despite the fact that tracks like 'New Direction' or 'Stand me Stand' were obviously carried by Ras Donovan’s plaintive voice, Schneider never intended to compete with the genre’s Caribbean originators, but instead pursued his very own imaginary and decidedly non-authentic take on reggae music.

In late 2003, another fruitful alliance saw the light of day, triggered by a remix request by Leeds musician Meriel Barham (a former member of the Pale Saints who had already released a stunning album on Cologne-based label Karaoke Kalk as Kuchen), a request Stefan rejected in favour of a collaboration based on sending each other musical sketches on mini disc. After two years of postal exchange Meriel and Stefan finished their “Kuchen Meets Mapstation” album at the Tarwater studio in Berlin.

“Version Train” and “Kuchen Meets Mapstation” were followed by plenty of live shows and a tour all over Europe, Siberia and Algeria.) The album ‘Distance Told me Things to be Said’ was released on Scape, and contributed to the Jukebox Buddha compilation.