It’s difficult to follow the fragmented life and musicianship of Matthew Schneider. His twofold path has always embraced both an abiding love for Chet Atkins and Nashville session virtuosity, and a begrudging though fruitful flirtation with Chicago’s post-rock underground and middleground. In his native McHenry County as a young teenager, he was a guitar phenom, an engine of local pride who played old-timey anthems and oldies for an audience of delighted townies in a button-up shirt and short dweeby haircut. His clipping book is filled with front page praise lavished on his performances at Dobbyn’s House along the Fox River. That he made it through high school is due in part to the fact that he provided the soundtrack for many of his teacher’s drunken evenings and they let him slide through like a star athlete. In a simultaneous, parallel universe he was roped into playing with bands like Adhesive and Filament (two different bands who shared members and lovers) who had more in common with Seam and Tortoise than Chester or Les. The summer of 1998, immediately after graduating high school, Schneider went on a several week trip to Nashville, where he found more of a ghost town than a warm welcome for a burgeoning session player; Chicago’s fecund melting pot of jazz and rock was far more inviting. He moved to Wicker Park with his Adhesive band mates and participation in a succession of acts followed: The Exciting Trio, then Toe (where he and Griffin Rodriguez replaced, respectively, Jeff Parker and Doug McCombs of Tortoise), and then ex-Codeine Doug Scharin’s large fusion ensemble HiM. After touring Europe with HiM, Schneider retreated to his mother’s empty house in Marengo, Illinois and woodshedded for six months, grinding out fundamentals. He recalls “I wanted to learn the instrument.”
Maintaining his idiosyncratic trajectory as a musician, Schneider never quite returns to the road. Rather he burrows in Chicago, creating ever more complicated methods and tunings for his acoustic guitar while otherwise focusing on his children and his carpentry. He becomes, in a classic sense, the hidden secret of Chicago musicianship. Encountering his playing, stalwart performers are consistently stunned. Without ensconcing his work in dubious spirituality he channels something somehow simultaneously poetic and mathematical, like Kepler’s “music” of the spheres. Each composition is instantaneous, improvised and launched as if fully formed, making sense only in relation to its own spontaneously formed rules of interaction… Songs aren’t so much finite concepts but endless ragas that he taps in and out of; consequently these pieces can’t be entered mid-stream. Instead the listener must participate in the universe as its created in order to live in it. His reputation is such that top collaborators need not be sought, but are intrinsically curious to participate. On these recordings, he is joined by Dan Bitney (of Tortoise), Matthew Lux (Iron & Wine), and Sam Wagster (Cairo Gang). Producer and engineer Brian Sulpizio (Health & Beauty) records and mixes. It is the sixth recording by the ever-shifting entity called Moon Bros (named for turn of the century Moon Bros. Carriage Company) but the first three have all been lost, likely forever, possibly irretrievable from a broken CD-R in the bottom of a box of tools and flotsam hardware. Dancehall Sound and Frijolillo at least made the jump to internet download-ability; only These Stars has ever seen wide, intentional release. Will you hear more about Matthew Schneider? Yes, but whether in the context of the great and unknown, or the at-last recognized, remains to be seen.
…has a quavering emotional tenderness, and it's how I imagine Thom Yorke would sound, if only he was an American carpenter living out in the sticks surrounded by Bill Fay records.
…unpredictable…lovely…elaborate constellations of fingerstyle guitar.
Schneider’s song structures seem so loose and spontaneous that they must, you think, be improvised, while the dexterity and effortless lyricism of his playing attests to untold hours of woodshedding, to the point that such tossed off virtuosity has become his standard.
...loosely wound with a stunning wingspan.
...special and beautiful...moonlit pastoral tunes...soulful...
...he forms entire worlds from thin air, marked by rhythmic landscapes and architecture inspired by improvised melodic structures.
…as patient as it is thoughtful…channels the likes of Bill Fay and early, porch-pickin’ Tom Waits.
…imagine late-period Byrds sharing stimulants with Scott Tuma and you’re in the ballpark.