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J. Peters Schwalm & Stephan Thelen - Transneptunian Planets (RareNoise)

2 June 2022

Though German composer, musician and sound designer J. Peter Schwalm and Swiss guitarist, composer and Sonar bandleader Stephan Thelen are well known for their consistent journeys into the outer limits, somehow the pair have not collaborated until now. Transneptunian Planets – so named in tribute to the many celestial bodies in our solar system that lay past Neptune, including Pluto – is, in many ways, what you might expect from this particular meeting of the minds: spaced-out soundscapes, clean tritone guitar figures, tricky time signatures (providing in part by Sonar drummer Manuel Pasquinelli). But the pair take advantage of working outside of normal parameters to – and this is perhaps putting it overly bluntly – fuck around with each other’s parts. Removing any constraints, Schwalm and Thelen sample, reconfigure and just plain ravage each other’s tracks when called for, giving cuts like “Quaoa,” “Eris” and “GongGong” otherworldly textures and rubbery grooves that create a parallel universe, one with familiar traits but aren’t…quite…the same. Besides Pasquinelli, the duo are joined by British bassist Tim Harries and Norwegian experimental guitarist Eivind Aarset, both frequent Schwalm collaborators comfortable exploring alien territory. There’s lots of cool ideas and interesting sonics here, making Transneptunian Planets a record that one hopes will begin a series.