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Version Train . Mapstation & Ras Donovan


staubgold 38
2002. cd

Version Train is the latest excursion from the consistently engaging Mapstation, featuring some beautiful new pieces and a couple of abstractions / developments from the previous set, "A Way To Find The Day" (staubgold 29, 2002). These cuts, "Wake Up" and "Gravity", are wryly cited as "versions" (in the Jamaican tradition), and in particular show off the understanding that the main collaborators, Stefan Schneider and Ras Donovan, now have for the drift of this music: creating pretty patterns, then breaking them up, moving forward as one, and then contradicting each other.

On "Be True" we hear Donovan sounding at his sweetest, tossing off his lines like it's a super-warm Jamaican production with a gorgeous melodic base, instead of Schneider's rather colder North European design. Other times the roles reverse, and we remember Schneider's role in To Rococo Rot is usually to bring the melody. "Version Train" also introduces two new elements to the Mapstation equation: DJ singer, Scallo, from Donovan's group (both also perform live with Tikiman), and Martin Brandlmayr from Vienna-based unit, Radian.


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.