The History of Creation in 45 Minutes
Simmons and Schuster is the debut release from Timothy Simmons and Marc Schuster. The album consists of seven instrumental tracks, largely improvised, that run the gamut from dark and intense to light and airy. What holds them together as a unit is their cinematic quality: the album feels like the soundtrack to a film that has yet to be made and carries distinct echoes of instrumental tracks by the likes of Brian Eno and Pink Floyd.
The pair recorded the majority of their eponymous album on August 18 and 28, 2021, in Marc’s basement studio, though they admittedly did a decent amount of editing and overdubbing in the weeks that followed. The exception is the album’s closing track, “Ralph Waldo Steps In,” an improv piece that Tim recorded in his living room earlier in the year. Marc added a string arrangement in September.
The challenge that Tim and Marc set for themselves was to record quickly and without any MIDI sequencing. Most of the instruments are analog. The drums were all recorded live and, in some instances, looped or rearranged in the editing process. The string sounds were produced mostly through an Electro-Harmonix Mel-9 Tape Replay Machine effects pedal. Again—and to be completely honest—the exception to this rule was “Ralph Waldo Steps In.”
In terms of story, the album attempts to depict the history of creation in the space of about forty-five minutes. The opening track, “Start with Drums,” is reminiscent of the big bang in the sense that it flings bits and pieces of music everywhere. “Infernal Combustion Engine” depicts a hot mess of a planet gradually taking shape, while “Murky Depths” imagines the first signs of life appearing deep beneath the primordial sea.
What would be side two of the album (if it were released on vinyl or cassette) begins with “Tadpoles,” which got its name when Marc noticed that the graphic representation of the sounds Tim was making on his bass looked like tadpoles in the recording software they were using. “Mucking It Up” sounds like the first land animals crawling onto muddy shores, and “The End Was a Mess (So We Cut It)” suggests humanity gradually industrializing the world millions of years later.
While the album’s closing track, “Ralph Waldo Steps In,” certainly calls to mind nineteenth-century transcendental philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, who would likely have a thing or two to say about the world depicted in the previous piece, Tim and Marc decided to include it to lighten the mood. Indeed, in the last few seconds of the album, one can hear one of Tim’s daughters walk into the room while he’s recording the piece.
Marc explains, “I thought that was a funny—and maybe even poignant—way to end the album. Here we are trying to make this arguably intense artistic statement when real life intrudes in the form of a girl who wants nothing more than to talk to her dad. I mean, talk about bursting our little self-important, self-absorbed bubble with something that really matters.”
Praise for Simmons and Schuster
An unusual, fascinating and thoroughly unique work… The album features seven wonderfully-titled instrumental moodscapes that run the gamut from dark and menacing to light and soothing. -Eclectic Music Lover
A fascinating musical journey… This album could be compared to Dante’s Divine Comedy. -Edgar Allan Poets
Amazing album… A collection of creativity, a tangle of sound frequencies without coherence, but curiously thought-provoking.-Roadie Music
A beautiful guitar and bass duo that conducts its dialogue with soulful delays that enchant with its charm. -Indie Dock Music Blog