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paul schneider


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The best kept secret in music



May 20, 2004
Paul Schneider - Escape Velocity
[Semaphore; 2004]
Rating: 7.5

In the center of a black hole, called the singularity, the gravitational force is so great that the escape velocity of any object or radiation exceeds the speed of light, thus making escape from the hole's gravitational pull impossible under the laws of space-time as we currently understand them. A black hole isn't literally a hole so far as we know, but it comes close, given that it has no volume despite its infinite density-- we can't even know what a singularity looks like because it's obscured by something called the event horizon, beyond which all light is trapped.

Though it can be explained by pages' worth of dry theory and alien-looking math equations, it's difficult to deny the inherent romance of the concept. Once you've passed beyond the event horizon, your only hope is that you're crushed into oblivion quickly enough that you feel nothing-- that light can't even escape its clutches is especially chilling and fascinating. Songwriters being a generally romantic lot, it's surprising that the fertile symbolic ground of these cosmic phenomena hasn't been more thoroughly plowed-- most songwriters just focus on the stuff you can actually see, like the moon and the stars. But Paul Schneider, your friendly guitar-toting servant (and not the guy from Múm), has apparently noticed this oversight, and attempts to remedy it on the opening track of his debut album.

"Event Horizon (Pulls a Body)" is a lushly melodic song that nicely captures the essence of attraction amidst discord in a relationship-- even as his paramour does all she can to degrade him and crush his spirit, he's slipped past her event horizon, and now he's drawn to her despite himself. Schneider does an impressive job of keeping a potentially hazardous metaphor under control while his acoustic guitar bubbles over spare drum machines, his tenor's peculiar blend of gravel and nasal resonance articulating a deeply ingratiating melody.

Elsewhere, Schneider's studied melodicism is at its best on uptempo songs like "Don't Walk Around", its bounding, unison-harmony hook met by a slightly distorted guitar riff placed low in the mix. Producer Dave Snyder keeps the bass sound loose and sharp, letting the drums and guitar do most of the rhythmic heavy lifting. "Echo of Your Heart", however, is the undeniable highlight, with its brisk rhythms sweeping along Schneider's fluid melody. Here, guest guitarist Oscar Rodriguez leads the band into a bloodrush coda that finally pulls back for a slowly churning, chiming outro.

Rodriguez also breaks open the midsection of the country-ish "Tourniquet" with a positively liquid solo, and provides the menacing bassline for "Waiting", the album's darkest, loosest song. Schneider handles the lead guitar himself on "Waiting", with a choice outburst near the three-minute mark. His leads on "Man" enter more Stephen Stills-ish territory, ringing in the lower registers, with the top EQ'd off for a strange, mellowing effect.

Escape Velocity is an accomplished debut for a promising young songwriter who thankfully seems as interested in the musical content of his songs as the lyrical. Fans of recent offerings by (to pigeonhole) neo-folkies like Tom McRae will definitely find much to like here, though the appeal certainly doesn't stop there: Escape Velocity is also a solid indie rock record, announcing the arrival of a songwriter to look out for. - by Joe Tangari


CMJ New Music Report
October 20, 2003
Paul Schneider: Escape Velocity

Paul Schneider’s first band, Rivington, was signed to Sony 550 back in 1998, but label consolidation and other drama prevented the group’s debut, Happy On A Sliding Scale, from reaching the masses like it should have (although it did spend some time on CMJ’s charts). So, the band dissolved and Schneider went solo. His new debut is a mishmash of shoegaze, electronica, country and folk music; but, at heart, it’s the music made by a singer/songwriter using all the technology and influences at his disposal to realize a vision of bittersweet, tender pop songs. The drum machines that begin “Event Horizon (Pulls A Body)” might make you think of electronic experimentation, but the Elliott Smith-like guitar strums give the song a firm melodic anchor, while “Waiting” should be on the playlist of your local modern rock station. Schneider says that pop music is “less a style unto itself than an aggregate of the best of many,” which sums up both Escape Velocity and his own style as well as any review ever could. - by Brad Filicky

"No Ripcord (UK Website)"

January 10, 2004
Paul Schneider: Escape Velocity

Paul Schneider is a youngish singer/songwriter from New York, with the requisite indie hair and acoustic guitar, and anyone’s first impressions on hearing this description are bound to be a bit adverse. However, give Escape Velocity a spin, and you’ll discover an album of simple song-craft and melodious lyricism.

This isn’t intended to be a groundbreaking showcase of virtuosity, rather a fine demonstration of a dying art, that of the well-crafted pop song, stripped of pretension and over-indulgence. There’s no meandering nonsense here, each song is a finely honed nugget of folky pop-rock, with the occasional country inflection. Others have mentioned Elvis Costello or the Smiths as a reference point, but there is less of the angsty, bilious politicising of those bands here than there is straightforward Beatles-esque pop tunes. This is well displayed on opening track Escape Velocity (Pulls A Body), which also echo’s the late Elliott Smith’s guitar work and David Gray’s use of electronic beats. However, here they seem to be less of an integral part of the track, more a backing for the main song. Rather than being a bad thing, this emphasises the simplicity of the track, unlike David Gray, who, in tracks such as Babylon allows the backing to overtake the main track a little. Other highlights include the superb Heaven In Hand, which features a gorgeous bass-line and guitar interplay, before breaking into the song in a style reminiscent of Yesterday Went Too Soon-era Feeder, without the irritating power ballad posturing.

The occasional drift into Neil Young or Gram Parsons territory adds to the evocative atmosphere of the album, and again highlights the song-centric basis of Paul Schneider’s work. This is an album to reminisce about the days when writing a fine song was more important than a fashionable haircut, and as such is worth your attention. - by Simon Briercliffe

"Logo Magazine (UK)"

October 27, 2003Paul Schneider: Escape Velocity

You’ve just missed your chance to see Brooklyn’s Paul Schneider in the flesh as he played three UK dates earlier this month (including one as support to Four Tet); we missed them as well, and boy are we kicking ourselves now. Schneider is an unpolished gem in the firmament - not quite a singer-songwriter, too melodic and low key to be anything else, but blessed with the keys to the cupboard where divine inspiration is secreted and not afraid to use it. This debut solo effort - his previous outfit, Rivington, collapsed after their deal with Sony got lost in a bout of label mergers - heaves with harmonic charm, be it the rousing power pop of ‘Echo Of Your Heart’, the bruised vulnerability of ‘Later Date’ (David Gray would do well to engage Schneider’s services as a writer) or the gentle country swing of ‘Tourniquet’, which shows he could also earn a fortune penning more of the same for Ryan Adams. The arrangements are simple but never simplistic, while Schneider switches between styles with the transparent ease of a chameleon, making each his own. With Escape Velocity Schneider has achieved what many seek but few find, music that you can truly lose yourself in; go and get lost. - by Gillian Nash


Paul Schneider, "Forever Debts" (2006)
Paul Schneider, "Escape Velocity" (2004)
Rivington, "Happy on A Sliding Scale" (2000)

"Happy..." and "Escape Velocity" received a great deal of college radio airplay while also being reviewed favorably by CMJ and "Forever Debts" is an upcoming release for the end of 2005.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Following the release of 2003's critically acclaimed "Escape Velocity", Paul Schneider steps miles ahead with his upcoming release "Forever Debts". Fulfilling the promise noted by CMJ and on his debut, the new collection of songs cover a wild array of styles and subjects. Turning away from the more classic influences (Costello, Elliot Smith) which infiltrated and informed "Escape Velocity", "Forever Debts" finds Schneider developing a more personal vocabulary and style. Jangled guitars swarm warm programmed beats and layered drums. Angular melodies morph into unforgettable hooks. Familiar radio sounds and prog explorations from the 70's and 80's grapple with turn of the century electronic foundations. Lyrically, "Forever Debts" ventures beyond the obvious (though tried and true) singer/songwriter concerns of unrequited romance to explore themes of money, debt, family, and work. These musings are embedded in and tailored with that combination of pop sensibility, musicality, and adventurousness Logo Magazine calls the "Schneider badge of quality". 2003-2004 found Schneider steadily touring the US, UK, and Europe in support of "Escape Velocity". Highlights included a packed show at the 2003 CMJ Music Marathon, two solo tours of the UK, solo and duo tours of the West Coast, full band tours of the East Coast, and dates with Rainer Maria, Pinback, Avec, Desert City Soundtrack, Saxon Shore, and Jesse Harris. College and specialty radio stations embraced the record across the US, while press and live audiences warmed to the songs in the UK. Expect 2005 and 2006 to bring the live version of "Forever Debts" to your town in one of several incarnations: solo acoustic with an array of loops and samples, duo with guitarist Oscar Rodriguez (Nakatomi Plaza, The New Electric), or accompanied by a full band (The Close Talkers). Forever Debts will begin hitting stores, airwaves, and the internet with a UK single in September 2005 (featuring the album track, "Osmosis") followed by the full-length release in early 2006. Paul Schneider's old band, Rivington, lived shortly on Epic records from 1999-2000. The band's experience on the label was not a pleasant one, and resulted in a self-release of their record, "Happy on a Sliding Scale", produced by Ted Niceley (Fugazi, Jawbox) in 2001. Both "Happy" and "Escape Velocity" are available on Semaphore Records at