In 1987, Bill Nelson cemented his conversion from electro-pop to ambient soundscape artiste with a double-LP he called Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights. In doing so, he confirmed his legacy as a poor man's Brian Eno. Nelson's 41-track opus wasn't bad, by any measure, but it was a maddening listen. While "Evocation of a Radiant Childhood" clocked in at 5:39, only seven other pieces crossed the three-minute mark.
Janek Schaefer's Glitter in My Tears will test your patience in a similar manner. There are high points among these 26 tracks, but every time one of his good ideas grabs your attention, he drops it like a four-year-old bored with a toy.
Take "Hells Bells," for example, which starts with a genuinely intriguing, locked groove recording of "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy" from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. There's a beautiful touch of surface noise and a nice echo effect, but it goes nowhere. Sixty seconds later, we're onto the next singular idea. (In this case, a processed 57-second jazz recording from the 1930s.)
That Schaefer is clearly capable of much more makes Glitter in My Tears all the more disappointing. This is, after all, the 20th anniversary of his recording career. His interest in found sound and adeptness with a variety of textures is more than impressive, and the fact that he was an architect in a former life shows in his compositions.
Had he nailed this collection of odd lots together, Schaefer may have had a really consequential release on his hands — perhaps even two or three. (Room40)