By Tom D'Antoni
Stephanie Schneiderman and Keith Schreiner (aka Auditory Sculpture) may have re-invented the entire concept of singer-songwriters. Dangerous Fruit her new album, obliterates what had been fast becoming a stale genre. You may never think of singer-songwriters the same way again.
She is known for her Lilith Fair period, later a jazzier edge, and then several years with Dirty Martini.
He is known for being the electronics part of Dahlia, for the memorable Storm and the Balls remix Vastectomy, the hip-hop project Suckapunch, for Jazztronica and his own solo albums, all under the name Auditory Sculpture.
[Full disclosure: Keith wrote music for a documentary Greg Bond and I made. Rather than prejudicing this piece, it gives me insight.]
The result is a perfect marriage of her songs, his electronic soundscapes and his ability to bring out the best in female singers. He did it with Jen Folker, Storm Large and now…well, if you think you've heard Stephanie Schneiderman before, you haven't.
It all has to do with something he heard in his head.
"I sought her out," he told me. "I had approached her seven or eight years ago, when Dahlia was first popping and I was sniffing around for another project to work on." It wasn't until last January, when Dahlia played for Schneiderman's Voices for Silent Disaster concert series. (KPTV was a media sponsor.) He had an idea of doing some remixes of material she had previously recorded, and then possibly working up to an album of new songs.
"Her old style of music isn't something that interests me that much but a good song is a good song," he said. "I went over her house.. Instead of saying I want to do a remix I said, 'Screw it, I want to do an album. I have this radical idea of changing everything that you do, like your sound and I really want to get in there and rip your songs apart and put them back together,' and she was like, 'Yeah! OK!'"
"It was perfect timing," Schneiderman said over tea on Alberta St. "I wanted to do something different and I didn't know what it was. I just knew. I had this batch of songs. I had changed as a songwriter. I knew I wanted to push the edge, whatever the edge was for myself.
"I don’t' know if he knows this, but I was so inspired before our meeting,, I was gathering my songs together, finishing some things."
Things clicked for them on the first day in the studio. "It was pretty apparent from the second we started," said Schreiner, "that this style I had in my head, "and that she signed on to, and that we both worked together towards…was totally going to work."
Schneiderman adds, "We were both really blown away. He said, 'What I want do to is find the song in each of your songs.' That means to strip away the things that you don't realize you're doing…that emptiness is so nice. He wanted to keep things raw and open and let the vocals breathe in a different way and not fill every spot in."
The soundscapes he created for her, some close, intimate microphone work, plus not having to sing over a band allow for a quiet explosion of meaning in this collection of thoughtful, perceptive, sometimes seductive, sometimes loving, sometimes bitter songs "Twenty Slivers, changed from a sad, moody song…it worked to be more angry when I sang it," she said. "Maybe that song was really angry and I just didn't get there until he helped me get there.
"I felt like the other songs became more evocative because of the production. The words worked better."
Perhaps the most evocative song on the album is, When You Touch Me. Schreiner says, "It's the most honest marriage between my sound and her sound."She explains the line I've got this fire frozen in my heart, in the absolutely unforgettable chorus this way, "It's the idea of wanting something that you see and that you know is there but it's just a little bit out of reach."
I guarantee that you'll have that chorus in your head for weeks.
For all around musicianship, imagination, songwriting and pure inspiration, this gets my vote for best album of the year on any chart, in any genre.
Thursday, November 13, Doug Fir Lounge, with Kaitlin ni Donovan and DJ Dave Allen, 8pm door, $12