Award-winning and critically acclaimed composer and sound artist Michael J. Schumacher is a Juilliard graduate who has made profound innovations in the realm of sound as art. He’s had installations placed internationally and, perhaps, is best known for his Diapason Sound Art gallery in New York City which he founded and directed from 1996 to 2011.
But before uniquely exploring the boundaries between music and gallery art, Michael began his creative path as an unbridled rock guitarist, jamming with his friends and reveling in the primal pleasure of loud, aggressive music. It’s taken him years to connect those foundational euphoric moments with the bravely artful music of his life’s work. With the stunning debut from his diNMachine project, Dance to Reason (Yocto-Yotta), he has found the bridge between the music that made his body move as a kid and the soundscapes that challenge his mind as a composer.
Parallel to playing rock with my friends, I was studying piano with Seymour Bernstein, an amazing teacher who opened me up to deep musical worlds. So there was this split between the rebellious, self-taught spirit and the solitary, more formal path, Michael explains. diNMachine is the delayed integration of the two parts of my musical life.
Michael became fascinated with the term din machine when he read it in an article by esteemed contemporary art critic Rosalind Krauss. The name intrigued him conceptually as he toyed with its referential possibilities. It’s not a response to the noise around us. It’s an expressive gesture that comes from within you, he clarifies.
diNMachine, the band, makes amoebic dance-rock that references the twitchy funk of the no-wave movement, the transcendent and glitchy textures from every era and strain of electronic music, the compositional qualities of classical music, with exotic flourishes from music across the globe. The eight songs are like an hour-long strange journey that sounds like the best, most adventurous alternative radio station you’ve ever heard (without the commercials). Currently, diNMachine is an instrumental band but its soundscapes, evocative and conceptual, touch upon landmark movements and moments in literature, cinema, philosophy, photography and history. It’s a post-modern mosaic pieced together with a playfully irreverent almost punk rock spirit.
Michael is diNMachine’s primary creative force. He’s the conceptualist, composer and arranger of the music. The band operates as a collective centered around a core trio with a roster of auxiliary musicians/visual artists to draft in. Essential to this core trio is bassist Nisi Jacobs, a trusted collaborator of Michael’s through the years and drummer Hari Ganglberger.
Nisi Jacobs is Michael’s partner and a key element within the band: bass player, electro-percussionist, and video artist. At the core of her passion for the bass is the desire to experience the liberated joy she once felt roller skating around the floating maple floors of the Roxy roller rink. She’s a video editor, educator and an artist who came into the diNMachine orbit after two key events. One, her friend tipped her off to Michael’s gallery and his work challenged and moved her deeply. Two, she discovered the majesty of the bass one day while listening to fearless low-end adventurer Bill Laswell.
Hari Ganglberger’s command of various ethnic feels and authenticity within a diverse array of genres and sub-genres make him an essential component to the artistic dialogue. What he brings to diNMachine is an appreciation and deep understanding of the music, a fearlessness and dedication to bringing it to life, and, basically, just a great sense of rhythm, Michael says. Plus, he can handle anything I throw his way. Also in the diNMachine family are some of New York City’s most intrepid sonic explorers, including Avram Fefer, saxophone and flute, Taylor Levine, guitar, Kato Hideki, bass, James Fei, saxophone, Sean Moran, guitar, Jerome Harris, bass, John Ferrari, drums and Peter Zummo, trombone.
Dance to Reason is a boldly creative album, spanning dense ambient layers, hypnotic grooves, shards of noise, a music as art/music as humor paradigm and gorgeous dance floor bliss. The whimsical Lpse addresses the man/woman thing with cleverly placed TV ad samples and an arrangement arc focused on moments of sensual tension and release. The taut grooves on Telepath intriguingly and tangentially reference Afro-beat legend Fela Kuti. Sometimes I will latch onto an element or riff from somewhere and it becomes the inspiration for a song. The outward influence becomes buried, but there’s a spiritual connection guiding the track, Michael says. The rapturous 5th Bass is a glorious rock anthem channeled through diNMachine’s distinct sonic imprint of technical and technological ecstasy.
The albums signature sonics were greatly shaped by iconic iconoclast Bill Laswell (Mick Jagger, Ramones, Herbie Hancock, Yoko Ono). Bill mixed the record, lent the band his studio with full use of his in-house engineer, James Dellatocoma, and helped assemble the musicians who played on the record. He really shaped the sound, Michael affirms. He was able to maintain the energy without compromising the complexity. Very few people have the ears to accomplish what he did.
diNMachine has just completed with video artist Benton-C Bainbridge (Beastie Boys) an artistically groundbreaking video for the track Minor Me and enjoying a rich developmental period as the band is exploring being more of an improvisatory unit, readying two additional albums, and planning out the integration of an aesthetically complimentary visual presentation. Reflecting on this creatively fruitful period, Michael says: This is the music I love making. It makes me dance yet it interests me as a composer. It’s a challenge and it’s something I will devote myself to for quite some time.
Michael Schumacher, synthesizers, piano, guitar, composition
Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at TurtleTone Studio NYC
Mixed and Produced by Bill Laswell