Words and selections by Dennis Kane and Dr. Rob
Pioneering electronic composer and musician Klaus Schulze passed on April 26th at the age of 74. A tremendously influential and prolific artist, Schulze significantly shaped the landscape of contemporary music. From helping develop “krautrock” and the Berlin School, to impacting all aspects of electronic, film, ambient, and “Balearic” music, Schulze was one of the totemic musical figures of the second half of the 20th and beginnings of the 21stcentury.
From his early years drumming for Tangerine Dream, on their debut LP, Electronic Meditation, to his co-founding of Ash-Ra Tempel, alongside Manuel Gottsching, to his work under the alias Richard Whanfried, his 50+ solo albums, or his other collaborative projects – Go, Cosmic Jokers, Software, Eruption – and his recent work with Hans Zimmer – who returned to Shulze’s Dune for his own Dune score, Shulze pushed forward restlessly into new forms, technologies, and approaches, while also maintaining a deeply soulful and aquarian tone.
Below Dr.Rob and I select a handful of personal favourites from his extensive catalogue to share, and celebrate the practice and works of a great musician. Navigare ad caelum Herr Shulze.
My Ty She – From Ballett 3, MIG01882 (originally released on a 10cd box set Contemporary Works in 2000)
Profoundly melancholy, written in part for his mother, who was a dancer, this composition mixes electronics with traditional instrumentation – vocals, flute, violin, cello. Great performances from Thomas Kagermann (vocals/violin), and Julia Messenger (vocals). Poignantly bittersweet and otherworldly, it calls to mind some of the music from Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack, a dream you can stay in for the duration. Brilliant.
Satz Exil SIls Maria – From Irrlicht 1972 (Revisited records)
The third track from his debut solo recording, Schulze uses a traditional – apparently damaged – organ and orchestra here with electronic effects, – including a guitar amp. It envelops the listener into a haunting atmospheric and shifting space. Based loosely on the German legend of the “Will O’ the Wisp” an apparition that appeared to travelers, there are no beats, just tones and surging monumental moments. Initially indifferently received, but now considered a masterpiece of orchestrated ambient sound.
Klauss Schulze & Rainer Bloss – Drive Inn. (Deutsche Austrophon 1984)
Rainer Bloss was a composer and keyboardist, and a member of the band Wir. Schulze and he had exchanged tapes of their work and Bloss toured with Schulze through Europe. In driving to gigs they grew annoyed at the lack of quality music on the radio, so started this piece with the idea that it would be a perfect driving soundtrack. Lots of rhythm and progressive sequences here, a few nice hooks and joyful hints of melody, the mode is movement, with some great South American flavoured percussion moments from Michael Garvins. It sounds great in the car and beautifully enacts the rush of being in motion.
Crystal Lake – From Mirage 1977 (Brain records)
This LP is built entirely from synthesizer. Crystal Lake a beautiful cool landscape – lots of Moog and Arp sounds, great sustained tones, and blocks of repeated shifting phrases, the repetition adding depth of field. Meditative and haunting the composition moves through subtle adjustments like a lens surveying unknown territory.
Trancefer – 1981 (Innovative Communication)
Into the digital, but with the great Michael Shrieve on percussion and Wolfgang Tiepold on cello. The first track, A Few Minutes After Trancefer, takes its time building, and has an easy pacific lilt. Shrieve and Tiepold create a propulsive rhythm for Shulze’s sequenced sounds – there is a groove here. Silent Running builds an industrial landscape with some brilliant cello and percussion, lines and phrases extend beautifully, the whole piece, although delicately structured, has a live jam improvised edge.
Silhouettes – 2018 (SPV)
Recorded after his 70th birthday, Silhouettes, has a deeply introspective feel. Working with minimal components, Schulze builds compositions that are spacious and at times brightly harmonic. The album is both requiem and cosmic departure, an artist taking stock of all he has accomplished and jettisoning from that to an unencumbered lighter atmosphere, the final track, Chateaux Faits de Vent, closes not so much with solemnity as with a calm interrogative gaze.
The Cosmic tapes of Italian DJ, Daniele Baldelli, introduced me to the hugely influential electronics of pioneering German kosmische composer, Klaus Schulze. Without rips of those mind-blowing, genre-blurring, EQ-fucking, BPM-bending cassettes, I would have remained completely clueless.
In the early 2000s, as the DJHhistory.com forum family obsessively dissected Daniele’s mixes – and those of his rival, Beppe Loda – everyday, armed with a fresh list of IDs, I hit London’s second-hand stores on the way home from work. Croydon`s legendary Beano`s always being the final stop. For me, personally, this was really the beginning of scouring the pound / $ / Euro / 100¥ bins. Other than eBay, the only online marketplace was Gemm, where it was possible to locate sellers who – for a for mere pittance – would send you boxes of European cutouts and castoffs. Making big “pot luck” punts possible. Between Beano`s and Gemm, this is how I scored copies of so many of Klaus` marvelous machine masterpieces.
Dig It – from 1980 – delivered the fine, funky, Weird Caravan.
Audentity – from 1981 – danced like a dervish droid to the tune of Tango Saty.
1984`s Drive Inn, like Audentity, a collaboration with Rainer Bloss, offered the haunting, ethereal, alternately tribal and jazzy, Racing and Road Clear.
Under the alias, Richard Wahnfried, there was the classic, Time Actor – from 1979 – featuring the psychedelic sci-fi ramblings of “crazy” Arthur Brown. If that particular track was too much for your head to handle, then the LP also contained the more introspective, prettily, peacefully, chiming, Jose Padilla / Cafe del Mar favourite, Grandma`s Clockwork.
Still as Wahnfried, a couple of years later, Klaus was responsible for another big Cosmic / Balearic crossover, in the epic, flamenco-fired, Druck – which features his former Ash Ra Tempel co-conspirator, Manuel Göttsching, on some frankly amazing, far-out guitar. The other player was / is rumoured to be Carlos Santana.
Santana drummer / percussionist, Michael Shrieve, who also appeared on Druck, together with Schulze, and along with Shrieve`s brother, Kevin, transformed its radical rhythm into the sublime Transfer Station Blue. A “song” which, in its edited form, could be found rocking and shocking within DJ Harvey`s scene-shaking, scene-shaping, mix, Sarcastic Study Masters Volume 2.
As I Hoover-ed up all this cheap, but hot, wax, the sides on Innovation Communication, the label that Klaus co-founded in 1978, also became something to collect. The imprint being a staple of both Daniele and Jose`s sets. Each album held at least one piece of aural gold, and back then you could pick these LPs up for pennies. Klaus had a hand in the production of a fair few of the early releases. Working closely with outfits such as Din A Testbild – check their terrific Tight Pants! – while manning the controls for Clara Mondshine`s essential Luna Africana. Back in at the start of the then new millennium we were all spinning Die Drachentrommler at the wrong speed, but more recently Andrew Weatherall dropped the slow, symphonic, Raga Des Aufgehenden Planeten on his Music’s Not For Everyone NTS radio show.
Decamped to Japan, in Tokyo, I discovered The Far East Family’s Nipponjin – which Mr. Schulze mixed – but I was just a lightweight, of course, compared to far more seasoned, more serious diggers. Jonny Nash made me a gift of Mickie D`s Unicorn, while Moonboots, in the full throes of his “freak folk” phase, turned me on to Swiss folklorist, Timothy Leary’s lysergic chum, Sergius Golowin`s early `70s oddity, Lord Krishna Von Goloka – where Klaus contributes drums, percussion, organ, Mellotron, acoustic and electric guitar, unspecified electronics, everything, basically, bar the kitchen sink.
Klaus Schulze, Rest In Peace.