Just out yesterday is the latest from one of the most prolific German musicians ever, electronic music composer, Klaus Schulze, and his Silhouettes (SPV/Oblivion). At 70 the ambient master has slowed, but that in no way discounts a sonic experience. Apart from those agile newbies jockeying for wires and knobs, this record continues to prove that composing ages like fine wine. In this quartet of his signature lengthy works (the shortest running fifteen minutes) he delivers the title track as the opener. It’s as atmospherically moody as ever, maybe moreso. The synths are tonally soft, veiled finely, and gorgeously curvilinear. Over the years I’ve listened to countless Schulze albums, and there are a melange of familiar overtones here, like he’s playing an historical overture.
Released on both a marbled vinyl and standard cd, this will not disappoint his followers, nor those who loved his playing in either Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel, in fact this may be one of those crossover records that appeals to the latest generation of followers of Aphex Twin or Oneohtrix Point Never. Whatever the breakdown of the masses, one thing is clear, even though sadly he retired from live performances back in 2010 after his epic Tokyo shows and due to health concerns of late he needs to consider arranging some form of large-scale sleep concerts. This recording has justifiably one of the most trance inducing effects ever. Schulze’s relationship to his craft allows for an intimate experience for the rest of us as becomes evident throughout the electro-choral Der Lange Blick Zurück, which is a devastating recollection of creative time served. It’s an emotional ride, with pirouetting, rising harmonies that are just weightless.
Echoes of ambient, nu-classical, early electronica, Krautrock all are braided, interspersed from end to end, but still this man manages to find a way to untangle any specific genre, and a signature style stands resilient. With lengthy chord progressions the underlying disposition is fueled by emotional connection and detachment. Schulze notes: “No great distractions, nothing to force your attention in a certain direction, no major effects or gimmicks, no frills or dominant rhythms. It was important to me to paint the pictures in the depth of the space, the sonic fields of tension and atmosphere.” And I testify that he accomplished exactly that. Quae Simplex is a bit more upbeat in the classical tradition of 70’s out-electronics, and as equal parts a septuagenarian brings a scope of time-space continuum. If you look at the actual real-time progression in the world of electronic to digital to virtual music, there’s been incredible technological advancements. The man behind Silhouettes has tried and tested out all the above theories — and has both incorporated or otherwise assimilated so much into this record, still never losing or selling out his sense of originality.
My thought is the composer is score-keeping though I’d venture to guess there’s plenty more to add to an already voracious discography packed with more punch than passing phases. Of the tracks here, however, Quae Simplex is closer to the latter in an aerated dynamic that is stylistically superficial compared to the previous pieces. It doesn’t start or end that way but about ten minutes in it opens up a bit to transparently and becomes more sheer background and less tangible to these ears. The remedy comes in the form of Châteaux Faits De Vent, the conclusion here. The layering of chords is captured in a different structure here, its a few shades darker and slower. The title basically translates to wind castles, so perhaps this is a quasi Narnia-esque tale of wilderness and magick. The twisting synths and time signatures bring the degrees of separation between this composer and Philip Glass & co. much closer, by adding a very small degree of pop/rock sensibility to the mix. This is the only place where a film score comes to mind, it travels along a steady set of uncomplicated patterns. A layer drops out here and there, opening up a sequence of shifting intrigue, action, and away the sweeping rhythm goes again, and again. Here’s to good health and to the perpetuation of bending ears!