Producer Stefan Schwander, aka Harmonious Thelonius describes his current project as “American minimalism vs. African drumming vs. European sequencing,” which is something that takes a minute to wrap your head around. American minimalism might conjure a few different things, but here it generally seems to imply something simple, melodic, easy to listen to. African drumming and European sequencing are more straight forward, but what does it mean coming from a German artist exactly? Whatever you want to call it, it is a unique and interesting mix that has given Schwander enough inspiration for two albums in two years under the Thelonius moniker.
Yet Listen and its predecessor Talking are as distinct as they are similar, with the latter album asserting sonic clarity, and the former, a patchwork of live tracks and studio tracks, demonstrating a uniform roughness. If anything, the vitality and distortion that make Talking feel unpolished is exactly what its follow-up lacks. Talking’s success came from its ability to harness the raw energy of world music and morph it in to something new.
Listen, meanwhile strives for diversity, using different rhythms on tracks like “Ting Tong” with its spastic shimmy or “Drums of Steel” that remains true to its name and brings the heat. But overall, Listen feels cerebral and fails to capture what made Talking such an interesting venture.