Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Robeone — Robeone
(Bandcamp no#, 2018, CD / DL)
Robeone — Circles
(Bandcamp no#, 2019, CD / DL)
Robeone — My World
(Bandcamp no#, 2020, CD / DL)
Robeone — Halos and Dogs
(Bandcamp no#, 2022, CD / DL)
Robeone — Piano Stories
(Bandcamp No #, 2021, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-06-02
Robeone is the solo alias of one Robert Schindler from Matthews, North Carolina, a composer, producer, and keyboardist, and the five albums at hand represent his output from 2018 through 2022. Over the course of many years he has played with the bands States, Mayson, Blue Angel, and others, supported the likes of Johnny Nash, Ruth Copeland, Rhett Tyler, and Ronnie Spector, both live and in the studio, just to name a few, and has done extensive soundtrack work and produced library music and more, though one might suspect that as a composer, arranger, and producer, Robeone is the project closest to his heart. As mentioned earlier, Robeone is a solo project, all keyboard based and no guest musicians, and Robeone is where it all began in 2018. The album opens with “Remember When,” presenting a beautiful cornucopia of synth and keyboard sounds in a powerful melodic stew. While a precise list of boards he used to create it is not given in the credits, one can plainly hear a variety of synthesizers, piano, and Mellotron (or an accurate simulation thereof) as well as drum programming that doesn’t overpower the rest of the effort. The follow-up “Simple Times” is also quite good from a compositional perspective; he uses a number of software instruments that are ultimately unconvincing: fake violins, acoustic guitar, banjo. Yeah, maybe they are samples of the real instruments, but processing them through a keyboard strips them of all their soul and emotion. The fake saxophone and voices on the jazzy number “The Doctor Is In” are equally annoying, though the drum programs are more convincing and the composition is superb. In fact, with “Questions” the fake guitar is totally buried by the many layers of astonishing synths, and a listener might well forget that it’s even there at the foundation of it all. “Lost Chamber” and “All You Do” are both exceptional compositions and the arrangements stick to standard keyboard sounds with percussion programs alight. The fuzzy electric guitar patch on the funky “Who’s Old” mixes well with the Brian Auger-like organ solos and backing textures, though it lacks a solid melody and seems to overstay its welcome. The flute patch on the closer, “Ships,” is fairly convincing, a pleasant enough track, though again it just sort of rambles along without a lot of purpose.
The next album, Circles from 2019, represents a major leap forward on many levels. One can hear the influence of later Klaus Schulze on the opening title track with its shimmering textures and sparkling melodic pointillism. He’s still using soft instruments, like the flute on the opener and its jazzy follow-up “Raindance,” but this time out he’s doing a better job with them, and as a result it’s far more convincing. The dense keyboard layers of “Synthphonic” stretch out delightfully, and again the Berlin School influence isn’t too far away. “Exile” and “Parts” are both gentler extended pieces that wander along a somewhat ambient path using piano and numerous layers of synths, the latter finding an excelent sequenced section midway through with some very convincing drums, eventually finding a slower groove; the piece is indeed a patchwork of parts over its near nine-minute duration. That slow groove continues on into “Dream Walk,” though here he’s back to using software instruments again, fake trumpet, even (what sounds like) harmonica, though as it wanders along, one has to admit that the cut is appropriately titled. The solo piano based “Full Circle” is a powerful expression of emotion and subtlety, while the closer, “Circle’s End,” takes another jazzy turn, a brisk groove that again owes some influence to Berlin School.
Released in 2020, My World evinces another major step forward for Robeone, offering another powerful and dramatic set of compositions, each arranged with a colossal array of keyboards and synths of all types, but we don’t find much of the soft instruments that were plentiful on the earlier two albums, Schindler seems to be comfortable arranging his pieces for keyboards only (although we do still find his programmed percussion on many of the album’s seven cuts), with some very interesting and often experimental results within a jazzy, funky and/or rock context. The title track opens the set in a dreamy jazz style with novel use of unusual synth tones sharing the spotlight with electric piano and a funky bass groove. Likewise, “Prayers” follows, spending about half of its six-plus minute duration in a jumpy jazz idiom then smoothes out with a steady groove with soaring lead lines to bring it to near its conclusion. “Tralfalmadore” uses some great classic crunchy organ sounds mixed with atmospherics all to good effect with a funky bottom end. In general the tunes on My World stretch out a bit more than on previous albums, and the eight-plus minute “Turn Off Your Brain” combines some wicked Berlin School sequencing stylings then lets go with more jazzisms and high-flying melodies along its trippy journey. With some opening voices, “The Understanding” grooves along with dreamy piano supporting multiple layers of synths and a little bit of flute to good measure, the voices reappearing at the end. “When It’s All Over... Coming Home” closes the set with another dreamy performance where multiple layers of synths each take turns at the helm.
Come 2021 and Robeone takes a total left turn with a solo piano album titled simply Piano Stories, with each of the nine tracks are simply titled “Story n” — apparently Schindler wasn’t interested in descriptive titles at this point, but that doesn’t hinder the power, beauty and emotion conveyed within each of these pieces. The compositions are all explorative in nature, a mix of structure and improvisation, touching a number of different styles from classical to jazz to soundtrack and beyond. An amazing composer and superlative player on the most basic keyboard instrument of all, without any other keyboards supporting. Piano Stories also includes a DVD, though all you get are still photos or art, mostly of pianos in various states of decay or destruction, one still picture per track. Considering all the possibilities of the medium, the DVD ends up being a disappointment.
This brings us to the newest and current release, Halos and Dogs, the 2022 follow up to Robeone’s earlier synth-oriented releases, further building on the strengths of Circles and My World. A mix of eclectic classicism, prog rock, 70s Berlin school and 70s keyboard jazz-fusion, the album’s six tracks make an even stronger statement than any before it, and would be the ideal starting point for anyone beginning to explore Robeone’s synthesizer creations. The album commences with the oddly titled “Don’t Ever Stop Your Heart,” an elastic mood piece with soaring melodic synth sprites and beautiful dreamy piano, finding a Tangerine Dream-like sequence around three minutes in with some interesting drum patterns, it almost seems to be custom made for a film soundtrack. Finding some inspiration from the jazz-rock keyboard fusion of Jan Hammer perhaps, “Morning Rush” delivers a brisk, somewhat funky groove with many layers of keyboard flash, speedy trills, and forceful directive, with some occasional growling low-end textures. Starting in a similar vein, “Yesterday Again” is a bit more dreamy and explorative, though use of an icky trumpet patch brings it down a notch momentarily, the piece gets right back on track with electric piano leading the way through beautiful synthetic atmospheres. At well over twelve minutes in length, “Turn Off Your Brain Part 2” picks up more or less where the original on My World left off, sort of an epic wandering through spacy dream states of shadow and light for the first several minutes before finding a sequenced cadence, then following a short jazzy piano break and some experimental play, we get back to the dreamworld where it all began. Opening up into a jazz groove again, “Clusters” makes good use of percussion and short blasts of voice, while the album closer, “Halos,” is pure piano bliss with some synth atmospheres in attendance, reminiscent of “Full Circle” from way back when, but fully orchestrated with synths and Mellotron. Without any hesitation I would recommend Halos and Dogs as an ideal starting point for a path of discovery through Robeone’s catalog.
Related artist(s): Robeone (Robert Schindler)
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