PARVENU | szmt


PARVENU | szmt
Gruen 178 | Audio CD > [order]


Parvenu is a work about authoritarian structures and developments.
The narrative is abstract, all sounds are concrete. Every single sound on this recording is based on recordings from three bee hives.



Track List:


Sometimes She Had Melancholic Memories of Her Larval Stage – 11:48
His Primary Role Was to Mate with the Fertile Queen – 9:04
The General Skepticism of the Constitutional Monarchy Was Justified as New Forms of Authority Surfaced – 15:11
The Surviving Virgin Queen Hid in the Shadows of Her Former Kingdom – 11:37


4 Tracks (47′00″)
CD (300 copies)



szmt: Tobias Schmitt
All sounds are based on recordings of bees taken at Senckenberg Institut, Frankfurt.
Mastering: Tomislav Bucalic
Diana Bowler (Bee Mistress)
Roland Etzin (Recording Equipment, Gruenrekorder)
Lasse-Marc Riek (Gruenrekorder)


Soundscape Series by Gruenrekorder
Germany / 2017 / Gruen 178 / LC 09488 / GEMA / EAN: 4050486125984





Ed Pinsent | The Sound Projector
Dolcis Concordiae Fructus
Parvenu (GRUENREKORDER GRUEN 178) is an interesting sound-construction piece put together by szmt, the new alias for German Tobias Schmitt, an electronic shrieker who may be familiar to fans of the Attenuation Circuit label (we like that label but were not sent any of his 2016 releases). Parvenu isn’t electronic music exactly but is based on field recordings of bees. More specifically he took the recordings from three beehives found in the Senckenberg Institut in Frankfurt, right where the bees are thickest. He’s given the four suites quite lengthy and loaded titles, each one like the chapter of a book, and he intends the package as social commentary – it’s a “work about authoritarian structures”. So once again the insect world becomes a microcosm of office buildings or business operations, or civil service departments.


As to making bee recordings, that’s a good thing to do, and as long as ago as 2011 I was wondering why more people don’t do it. I harboured this fatuous notion in reference to ‘The Bee Symphony’, a composition by Chris Watson and Marcus Davidson for the Touch label – a compelling blend of a vocal choir (The Bee Choir, so called) with field recordings of bees. 1 There’s also Eric La Casa and his Zone Sensible record – Olivier Darné apparently keeps hives in a suburb of Paris and La Casa couldn’t wait to insert himself, and his microphones, into that situation. Well, both of those are nudged into a slightly different angle by szmt’s unusual work – he’s not interested in giving us recognisable buzzy sounds as you might expect, and instead is all about heavy processing and editing. What emerges are alien sounds, cold and distant drones, and mechanical repetitions appearing as needed.


I assume all of this is to project his troubled fears about the authoritarian structures that surround us – unseen, unaccountable, almost unstoppable in their colonisation of everyday life. As already hinted, this critique could be made to apply to politics, capitalism, casino banking, online shopping empires, social media platforms, or indeed anything where there’s an evil power structure at play. Tough luck to the poor old bees who have to be the ones to carry this pessimistic metaphor, but I would like to think Tobias bears no grudge against our little stripey friends. Contrast and compare with the Ant-themed record by Big Blood which we noted some time ago, which takes a far more antagonistic view of the insect kingdom (and rightly so). On the other hand, what are to we make of szmt’s titles such as ‘The General Skepticism of the Constitutional Monarchy Was Justified as New Forms of Authority Surfaced’, a sentence which has many twists and turns, to the point where it’s not really clear which particular power-base szmt is intent on undermining. Then we have the track titled ‘His Primary Role Was to Mate with the Fertile Queen’, a phrase which is also quite the double-edged sword, implying something about conventional male power structures bound up with expectations of sexual prowess, but where all displays of healthy masculinity are undercut by the iron rules of some grim totalitarian regime.


All of this dystopian horror is delivered, as already mentioned, by music which is distant and chillingly precise, its implacable surface only occasionally disrupted by the humming of alien wings. szmt appears to have found another world by peering through his microscope, and doesn’t like what he sees; it’s far from being a pleasant environment and the populace are downtrodden, brought low in spite of their aerial ways. From 4th December 2017.


Duncan Simpson | Musique Machine
The organicist metaphor of society as like that of bees has a long history in Western thought, predating the better known bodily metaphor – which is the foundation of modern corporational doctrine – by several centuries. Originating in Antiquity, the notion that human society should imitate nature as best it can slowly came into question during the later European middle ages, under pressure from developing mercantile economy and advances in legal and political organisation. In the modern era the hive metaphor was increasing viewed as anti-democratic, suppressive of the individual and hive-like societies almost inevitably malevolent; think of the Borg in Star Trek or caricatures of Communism (particularly Chinese) during the Cold War. Nevertheless the beehive society metaphor never entirely vanished and in the Modern period was most often invoked as an embellishment to holistic economic thought. George Cruikshank’s remarkable British Beehive image is paradigmatic in this respect, not least in its overall schematic similarity to medieval overviews of the hierarchical world such as those of Honorius of Autun. Tobias Schmitt’s intriguing Parvenu appears to be an attempt to capture something of these ideas and their continuing relevance for modernity. Schmitt has form for this kind of leftfield enterprise with his previous Gruenrekorder release being the suitably labyrinthine Fauna and Flora of the Vatican City , put out in 2008 under his Suspicion Breeds Confidence moniker.


The record – as the gatefold packaging states – is entirely composed of material recorded from beehives at the Senckenberg Institut, Frankfurt which Schmitt has heavily treated and recomposed into four dense and fairly abstract pieces. Each has a long descriptive title which could be a statement lifted from either a work of political theory or a manual on bee husbandry. The ambiguity here seems to be part of the game.


First piece Sometimes she had melancholic memories of her larval stage brings us in nose to nose with the hive. Close recordings of crackling, clicking sounds lead us into the anti-chamber of the swarm. And when it comes – all too briefly here – the expected buzzing is a deep, bass heavy throb. But this is a record that wears its tendency to abstraction proudly and after only a few seconds the naturalistic sounds end and heavily treated, almost mechanical element take over. Over the next few minutes we’re flung between glitchy, almost minimal techno passages and the most glacial of musique concrete. The material has been so warped and treated that the unsuspecting listener might well mistake the clicking edits and wafts of static to be emanations of a modular synth. More recognisable insect sounds do appear from time to time but they’re often paired with amped up mechanical counterparts that almost seem to parody the fuzzy sounds of the bees.


And what of the concept? Of the idea of the hive society? With the exception of the second track, His primary role was to mate with the Fertile Queen, each title signals a certain loss or dethronement by other forces. Take track three, The general skepticism of the constitutional monarchy was justified as new forms of Authority surfaced, which could have been lifted from a lecture of Michel Foucault (but doesn’t appear to have been). The same formula is found here; drones, natural sounds alienated, mechanised, rendered strange and impersonal. Several ambient passages give the insect sounds more space and acoustic dynamics, hinting towards the architecture of their origin. But the bees seem to have been assimilated by a more powerful collective. The local organic whole is radicalised into a relentlessly machinic and unfamiliar thing. The term drone is a virtual pejorative when applied to a person and in the age of remote asymmetric warfare it also conjures images of bombed out villages in far flung corners of the ‚war on terror‘. Here again is that fearful side of the hive collective that led to the rejection of the organicist metaphor in early Modernity.


The final track The surviving Virgin Queen hid in the shadows of her former kingdom is suitably evocative, matching its title with scratching, scraping sounds as if the Queen was dragging her bulky body through the underworld of her Kingdom overthrown. A low base sound begins to rise and fall while what could be the intermittent sweeping of an electronic surveillance system begins to whir and hum. The feeling is tense, anxious and confusing, perfectly capturing the sense of alienation felt by the modern neo-Liberal drone within the globalised economy.


This is certainly one of the least accessible records I have encountered from Gruenrekorder and those who appreciate their more naturalistic sounding releases will likely be perplexed. Nevertheless it’s a record that rewards replaying and a good degree of thought. The weightiness of the subject matter is perhaps not well matched by the abstract and somewhat academic quality of the music. It’s not an easy marriage to get one’s head around, although if you do then repeated listens bring to mind up suggestive motifs of overthrown sovereign insects, biomechanical hives and humanity rendered as an ant hill by the relentless forces of global capitalism. A hierarchy of drones without a Queen.


Łukasz Komła |
Odgłosy uli źródłem eksperymentalnych przetworzeń? A może dźwiękowy spacer po nieistniejącej dżungli? Sprawdźcie nowe wydawnictwa z Gruenrekorder. […]


Tobias Schmitt kieruje projektami szmt oraz Suspicion Breeds Confidence. Jest również współzałożycielem inicjatywy pod nazwą Xerox Exotique – wydarzenia w ramach tego przedsięwzięcia odbywają się cyklicznie we Frankfurcie, ale zawsze w innym miejscu. Pozwólcie, że przytoczę opis działania XE w języku angielskim: „A group of slightly deranged individuals with an interest in arson, arts & apple wine”. „PARVENU” to przykład soundscape’u rozbudzającego wyobraźnię. Schmitt miesza ze sobą zarówno improwizację, jak i kompozycję. Jego abstrakcyjny konceptualizm „kazał” mu włożyć rejestrator do środka trzech różnych uli.


Nie tylko plamy dźwiękowe u szmta przybierają niezwykłe formy, podobnie dzieję się w przypadku samych tytułów utworów. Jednym z takich przykładów jest „The General Skepticism of the Constitutional Monarchy Was Justified as New Forms of Authority Surfaced” (w wolnym tłumaczeniu: „Ogólny sceptycyzm monarchii konstytucyjnej został uzasadniony jako nowa forma władzy”). To nagranie brzmi mniej więcej tak, jakby wsiąść na olbrzymią pszczołę i odbyć na jej grzbiecie lot w kosmos albo skoczyć z Felixem Baumhartnerem z jego słynnego balonu. W „The General Skepticism…” ambientowe wiązki dźwięku z czasem nabierają tempa i przenoszą nas w przestrzeń osobnych istot muzycznych. Wskoczcie z „PARVENU” w zupełnie inny obszar eksperymentalnej narracji.


Gruenrekorder recordings are often filled with surprises, and szmt’s Parvenu is no exception: the brainchild of Tobias Schmitt, the forty-eight-minute release was created entirely using sounds derived from three bee hives. Given the szmt description provided, Schmitt, who also issues material under the Suspicion Breeds Confidence alias (e.g., The Fauna and Flora of the Vatican City) and has contributed to a number of releases on the label over the years, would appear to be somewhat of a provocateur. szmt, we’re told, “contextualizes seemingly contradictory material and techniques” such that all input is “formed into a coherent but nevertheless open-to-misinterpretation result by means of improvisation and composition.”


In the case of Parvenu, four long-form explorations are presented, each carrying with it a wordy title, the lengthiest “The General Skepticism of the Constitutional Monarchy Was Justified as New Forms of Authority Surfaced.” The material’s predictably abstract and amenable to interpretation, the listener free to conjure any number of possible interpretations in response. Occasional moments of insect swarm and buzzing do surface, but for the most part Schmitt’s treated the original recordings like so much raw material ready to be liberally shaped and transformed.


As the recording plays, it’s impossible to predict what direction it’ll take; at one juncture, a writhing, industrial-inflected rhythm pattern begins to assert itself before a swathe of smears abruptly takes its place. Elsewhere, amplified chirping, grinding, and warbling noises suggest a microphone moving in closely on the hive and its inhabitants, with rutting sounds of indeterminate origin implying activity of some (re)productive kind occurring within. Tinged with sci-fi bleeps, a few ambient-like episodes arise that one would perhaps misidentify as synth-generated were one unaware of the production methodology involved, and strange though it might sound, that aforementioned track, especially when it features clattering beat elements, threads sequences into its fifteen-minute frame that aren’t unlike what one might encounter in an early Autechre experiment.
A number of possible descriptions come to mind, but experimental soundsculpting might be the best and simplest fit for what’s going on here. Such experimentation is business as usual at Gruenrekorder central, of course, as long-time followers of the label already know. As strange to outsiders as Parvenu will be, to Gruenrekorder fans such weirdness is nothing more than standard operating procedure.


Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY
Behind szmt (no capitals needed) is Tobias Schmitt, better know, I think, as Suspicion Breeds Confidence, but also an improviser and organiser of concerts. As szmt he “contextualizes seemingly contradictory material and techniques. All input is equal and will be formed into a coherent but nevertheless open to misinterpretation result by means of improvisation and composition” and for ‘Parvenu’ we read that it is a “work about authoritarian structures and developments. The narrative is abstract, all sounds are concrete. Every single sound on this recording is based on recordings from three bee hives”, in which context I guess the whole authoritarian structures becomes funny. When I played this yesterday for the first time I didn’t look any of this up, nor could I really decipher the font on the cover and decided to give it another try, another day, which turned out to be today. Now that I know I am hearing the processed sound of bees, it sounds like something very obvious, but I guess that’s always the case. I assume that Schmitt is armed with a laptop and sound processing tools that lie within those machines to compose the four pieces on this CD. It is shimmering, quiet, sometimes loud, sometimes very processed, beyond recognition and then sometimes it seems to be fairly close to what is really a recording of a bee. Most of the times it sounds like the work of microsound, that active music force from a decade ago, but in the case of szmt that is perhaps 2/3 of the story. In “The General Skepticism of the Constitutional Monarchy Was Justified as New Forms of Authority Surfaced” (all four titles are that weird, indeed), Schmitt let’s his bees do a dance, and while not really techno music, or perhaps something we could or should dance too, there is surely some kind of groove to be detected. Schmitt’s work reminded me of Roel Meelkop, Marc Behrens and that posse, but he added his own twist by allowing a more loop based structure, working his processing around those, calling for minimalist developments within each piece. It’s these perhaps not so big differences that actually made it stand out from the microsound as it was before and made it into something he can call his.


Guillermo Escudero | Loop
Szmt aka Tobias Schmitt is a german sound artist based in Francfurt Am Main who has released four albums and a couple of singles for Attenuation Circuit, Acrylnimbus and Murmure Intemporel. He has participe a several groups, solo works and collaborations with other artists. „Parvenu“ is a work on structures and all sounds are concrete. Each sound in this release is based on recordings of three beehives. Some of the sounds are inaudible and all of them electronically processed allow to configure an abstraction of those innumerable actions that nature allows in beehives. Repetitive and structured actions that insinuate an established order and hierarchy as in a society like ours. “The General Skepticism of the Constitutional Monarchy Was Justified as New Forms of Authority Surfaced” proposes brittle and mechanical rhythms, differentiating from the album abstract sounds.