CE SCHNEIDER TOPICAL is a collaborative project which combines Christina Schneider’s well-honed songwriting skills with Zach Phillips’ equally-honed engineering chops. By no means cast firmly within the superficial roles of songwriter and engineer, both Christina and Zach perform on “Look Who Showed Up Out Here” and share songwriting credits for a little less than half of the tracks. Despite some recurring configurations of instrumental roles, Christina and Zach also forego an exact partitioning of those duties as well. Though Christina’s voice is certainly a prevalent melodic force throughout, and though Zach’s bass playing does (de)stabilize many-a-track, there are still quite a few wonder-full moments on this debut tape which are indebted to something other than a static division of labor. Piano, guitar, bass, and voice are handled at points by both Zach and Christina respectively, blending and distilling their talents across a range of compelling moments.
In general, one cannot necessarily tell who does what for which song (without reading the credits), nor is that the point. The point is this: their songs are embracing, adventurous, and damn good! Navigating a strange, new space between minimal folk-pop and eroded piano-bop, CE SCHNEIDER TOPICAL don’t seem to concern themselves with any particular genre. Rather, they achieve unity of vision without relying on easily identifiable tropes. That is why you should grab a copy of “Look Who Showed Up Out Here” upon its release this week through Zach’s label, OSR Tapes!
After listening to my review copy, a few particular words from the title track seemed to playfully swarm around me still, their textual representation on the cassette jacket mingling with their aural expression in song: “I must have asked a question // By the way I was made.” These lyrics seem to capture at least a fleeting sense of what the songs on this tape explore. “Look Who Showed Up Out Here” is a set of 14, misty, koan-like questions which hover unanswered. Each track invites you to listen close, but refrains from telling you why or how. In that case, it’s probably better to leave the pursuit of answers behind. In place of answers you may discover:
-“Dreams” and “Watering the Roses” unfolding Christina’s subtle invocations atop simple yet reverent guitar figures.
-“Something to Eat” and “Put It Back” offering enticing grooves and choruses.
-“Growing Back” and “The Thief of Feeling” biting through the 4-track hiss with delightful dissonances and distortions.
What I’m getting at with this brief list above is that there are a number of moments (many more than I have listed) which may bring a smile to an attentive listener’s face over the course of this cassette. But more importantly, what I’m also trying to say is this: who am I to tell you which moments those should be? Just pick up a copy of “Look Who Showed Up Out Here” from OSR and find out for yourself!
You can read more about this release in a pair of Addendums posted here. There are also some general notes about “Look Who Showed Up Out Here” posted in the main section of the OSR website which may be illuminating. CE SCHNEIDER TOPICAL are currently on the road with their debut release in tow, so keep an eye out for dates if you wanna catch them perform and grab a copy of this amazing new tape while you’re at it!