"Exlex Beats" is the fifth studio release from multi-instrumentalist and drummer extraordinaire Hans Jorg Schmitz recording under the moniker of King Of Agogik. And as has been the case since his 2006 debut album "Membranophonic Experience", Schmitz's compositional and arranging skills have improved exponentially with each new release.
Any discussion on the best prog/rock or jazz fusion drummers in the field today must include Hans Jorg Schmitz in the conversation. He continues to impress with each new album, and is one of the finest I've heard in decades. Not to mention his proficiency as both an accomplished guitar and keyboard virtuoso.
Schmitz retains his distinct unorthodox approach to musical composition by cobbling together an abstract sonic jigsaw puzzle of malleable snippets of meticulously constructed soundscapes, complex time signatures, atmospheric electronic textures, high energy symphonic metal assaults, and lush orchestral melodies into a cohesive tune.
The compositions that work best are those in which the musical ideas transition seamlessly in a natural organic flow from one measure of music to the next - while on occasion the changes are too abrupt and jarring, giving the track an uneven cut-and-paste feel. Thankfully these moments are few and far between.
Schmitz displays a level of sophisticated playfulness and skilled craftsmanship throughout "Exlex Beats". Often inserting aural subliminal messages of familiar rock classics throughout the album, most notably in the tracks "Lick Me" which features a montage of familiar rock classics like The Beatles ("Daytripper"), Metallica ("Enter Sandman"), Nirvana ("Smells Like Teen Spirit"), Black Sabbath ("Iron Man"), Aerosmith ("Walk This Way"), The Knack (My Sharona"), and Lenny Kravitz ("Are You Gonna Go My Way") sandwiched into his own raucous speaker rattling rocker; as well as his 22:47 minute progressive rock epic "Thin As A Skin", which is more a tribute to Jethro Tull as it is a new composition.
"The Venturous Dream Of A Schlabbershirt" is a beautiful jazz fusion number propelled by fretless bass, very similar in style and texture to the work of new age jazz bassist Mark Egan.
Highlights include "Bronto's Navel", "The Venturous Dream Of A Schlabbershirt", "Nomouglea", "Musicogenic Epilepsy" and "Thin As A Skin".
For "Exlex Beats" Schmitz has surrounded himself with a talented cast of guest musicians. The complete list of musicians include: Hans Jorg Schmitz (drums, percussion, guitar, keyboards, bass), Dago Wilms (guitar, bass), Gary Farmer (bass guitar), Steve Unruh (violin and flute), Michael Elzer (12 string Chapman stick), Michael Kreutz (bass guitar), Erik Waxjo (Mellotron), Pantelis Petrakakis (bass guitar), Andrew Marshall (Spanish guitar, keyboards), Arne Schafer (electric guitar), Peter Simon (oboe).
"Exlex Beats" is a cornucopia of musical delights for the adventurous listener and well worth adding to your collection.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on March 30th, 2015