KLAUS ENCOUNTERS

Berlin native Klaus Schulze formed his first band—Psy Free—in 1967. He was part of the birth of Tangerine Dream, playing on their debut Electronic Meditation, joined Manuel Göttsching in Ash Ra Temple for a while, and was an important part of the Cosmic Couriers team. Although revered for his role as a major innovator and explorer in the realm of electronic music, Schulze was primarily a drummer on those early recordings.

But the call to composition was clarion and so Herr Schulze launched his career as composer, performer and electronic innovator. His output is prodigious and his catalogue vast. David Stubbs, in his entertaining book on ‘krautrock’, describes Schulze as a ‘compulsive creator’, a description supported by the musician himself.

 I produce more music than a record label can release. After all, I do nothing other than working – playing and recording – in my studio. [p. 296]

Given that Schulze estimates his working week to average between eighty and 120 hours, few would dispute the ‘compulsive’ label. 

He has certainly created a substantial body of work. With over sixty albums across five decades, there’s a lot to trawl through (or collect). Certainly the titles in the Vinyl Connection collection barely scratch the surface. 

Or so I thought when I originally contemplated a Klaus encounter. But some research at the informative (if aesthetically shabby) Klaus Schulze web-site yielded unexpected results. 

I had assumed that the 70s would be the dominant decade for this collector. This was the music that entranced me at the time: wondrous cosmic albums full of  pulsing analogue synthesiser expeditions; outer space delivered to your lounge-room. So no surprise that all titles were present and correct.

What was unexpected was discovering that of the nine original albums KS released in the 1980s, I had all but one. Who’d a thought? After that the hit rate falls off dramatically but frankly, I’m not so fussed about the later material. Time has allowed the pack to catch up to the pioneer.

But let us begin at the somewhat unexpected beginning. 

It may come as some surprise to find that Irrlicht, the first solo album by electronic demi-god Klaus Schulze, was entirely devoid of synthesisers.

Irrlicht, released on the famous Ohr label in 1972, is a dystopian melt of orchestral sounds, pensive organ and overlapping octaves of alienation. It is brilliant, unsettling and timeless. 

Essentially two long sides (29 minutes and 21½ respectively), the album unfolds like a creeping fog, wherein shadowy giants move slowly, but with frowning purpose. “Satz Ebene” (the first word meaning “movement” in this context) has a five-minute coda at the end, a peaceful, quieter interlude that continues in the introduction to “Satz Exil Sils Maria” on the second side. This soon becomes a drifting dark-ambient dreamscape, one you’d rather not inhabit for too long.

It is hard to believe there are no synthesisers, as the waves, distortions and drones sound like some later artist’s space nightmare or an alternate soundtrack to Tarkovsky’s Solaris. But no, there are no synths. Just manipulated recordings, studio effects, and a vision both beautiful and bleak. Stubbs observed that “the organ sounds like the manic playing of a headless spectre” [Stubbs, p.300] while Julian Cope described the album as “a phased berserk thing” [Cope, p. 134].

If this sounds just a little demanding as an entry point to the world of Klaus Schulze, there are other options. Many people’s favourite Schulze album is Moondawn. This 1976 analogue masterpiece was my introduction to the German maestro and it still sounds rich, enveloping and transporting.

Opening with a chanting voice, ambient tinkles soon give way to the echoing textures of deep space. Klaus has all the big guns: Moog, ARP, EMS and of course organs. Plus drums. The addition of Harald Großkopf adds a propulsive energy, pulling us along with urgency and understated power. This is not dreamy music; think a cooler, Teutonic Jean-Michel Jarre and you’ll get a feel for the stellar voltage of Schulze’s sixth LP. (And it is long indeed: more than fifty-two minutes on the original vinyl).

In sum: bearing comparison to the best of the seventies—Phaedra, Oxygène, Trans-Europe ExpressMoondawn is fascinating, enjoyable, and highly recommended.

As the chart shows, the Schulze catalogue is moderately well endowed. Let me know if you are interested in further Klaus Encounters.

*

REFERENCES

Cope, Julian (1996) Krautrocksampler. 2nd Ed. Head Heritage, UK

Stubbs, David (2014) Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany. Faber & Faber, UK

32 comments

  1. I just put Klaus on the gramophone, Poland 1983, then I looked at WordPress and what are you writing about but Klaus. Totally Mindphased right now.

    I am always amazed at how rhythmic his music is, probably something about being a drummer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Snap! Right on about the rhythmic component; I read somewhere that he advised every aspiring musician to learn to drum.

      Like

    2. BTW, the Poland Live album is pretty good, isn’t it? That was the first time I heard the Fairlight.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s dense, I am working my way through it a side at a time, slowly. I recently got a lot fo Klaus and it is a slow moving experience to listen.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Essential part of the early electronic German Scene – also loved some of those surrealist covers – Blackdance, Picture Music, Timewind.

    Not that I too familier with his catalog, just a few from the 70’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for mentioning the covers – many of them are really good, especially the Dali-inspired ones you mentioned.

      Like

  3. Only Schulze I own is ‘X’. I quite like it, but I do need to add to the collection. You’ve given me two very good starting points.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great, John. And how about this… I was about to roll into ‘X’ as the third album in the post when I realised it was quite long enough! His 10th is one of my favourites.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. 60 albums over 5 decades? Ye gods.

    I am interested in more Klaus encounters!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Did you catch that quote about his work ethic? Mono-focus on stereo music, I reckon!

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      1. 80-120 hrs/week? Well, they say that if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life… but that kind of output is, dare I say it, approaching Pollard-ian!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Great new adjective!

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  5. Sold. This sounds like something I really need to be falling into. Albums duly noted and I’ll be trying to at least get some streaming action done soon!

    Tell me, are you gonna pick up that one 80s album your missing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heh heh… If I see it, you bet!
      If there’s interest in a Part Zwei, I’ll probably do Bodylove. (That’s a listening hint!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hint taken (I think). Currently looking on my streaming service for Klaus!!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, very interested, looking forward to the second part of this series. Timewind is one of my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Timewind and Blackdance are both fascinating albums, for sure. Thanks for the support alvalmeida.

      Like

  7. My organ errs on the side of pensive too!

    I really want Cyborg but I’ve never seen a half decently priced one anywhere. Although I have now added Irrlicht and Moondawn to the list – thanks a bunch Bruce, just what I needed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cyborg is very interesting. Perhaps more interesting than enjoyable. A magnetically freezing record guaranteed to chill your organ.

      So if we do a Part Zwei, you’ll be happy but potentially poorer, ja?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    “the album unfolds like a creeping fog, wherein shadowy giants move slowly, but with frowning purpose.” Amen. There you go. What I like most about (well, in my case ambient).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s all about mood, man.
      Hope your enjoying your enobox.

      Like

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        I had to take a break. I was overdoing it.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. iwarti · · Reply

    I’ve tried to dive into Klaus couple years ago (as a huge 70-ties Tangerine Dream fan) but I was dissapointed. I don’t remember what was the album I’ve listen to (probably Poland concert – I live in Poland and this record is very common and easily affordable here), but I wasn’t impressed I must say. It seemed ok, but nothing thrilling.
    Your post made me check some of his works again and bingo! – I love it! I’ve bought ‘Body Love II’ – which is brilliant, ‘Timewind’ on a cassette – great as well. Waiting for ‘Dig it’ to arrive in my mail and going for ‘Body love I’ spotted in local records shop. I’m sure I will check and catch some more from this period. Berlin School in it’s prime!
    He was equaly fabulous as TD, and it’s exactly what I needed after no more of their music from the 70’s left to discover and many of their later efforts were not my cup of whatever You like to drink.
    So Klaus is like discovering another bunch of great albums by the band You love when You thought all is left is to look for the distant traces of former glory in their later albums 🙂 Probably it’s time to return to Poland concert and check it again.
    Anyway thank You for reintroducing me to Klaus’ music and this time with proper result 🙂
    Arterrorist

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is fantastic. A really great story, and one that makes blogging worthwhile! Thanks for sharing it and I’m really delighted you’ve discovered the joys of Klaus.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. iwarti · · Reply

        Forgot to mention Trancefer – just came in the mail on the cassette format. What an album! Klaus went digital but is still in his highest form. Berlin school plus cello is a winning formula 🙂
        As You may already suspect I’m strong suporter of further Klaus encounters on Your blog 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Once you adjust to the digital sound, the early 80s albums are pretty energetic, aren’t they?
          Quite agree about the addition of a cello to synth music – TD did it so well on the sublime Zeit.
          And thanks for the encouragement – will try for another encounter soon!

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Chris Del Prete · · Reply

    Have just chanced across your writing and must say thanks. I’m sure our paths would have crossed in the 70s at one of the many record stores that populated Melbourne at the time. My first experience of Klaus was via a small store run in an arcade off Swanston Steet run by some very intimidating European gents. I always tried to sneak in quietly but always got collared. “You WILL love this!” I was told. Thus was I introduced to Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Harmonia, Amon Duul, etc. Still haven’t quite wriggled out of that wormhole yet. Then I’d move on to Archie and Jugheads, Gaslight, One Stop and too many more record shops to mention. What a way to spend a Saturday morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and welcome, Chris!
      There is an extensive back catalogue here, including mentions of several of the stores you allude to.
      One you might enjoy is “Uncanny Masterpiece” (there’s a search field on the right hand side) which ‘stars’ Gaslight.
      The wonderful store you refer to was Pipé, run by Jeremy (the store name was his nickname). I also used to gravitate there, though relative poverty kept purchases limited!
      Anyway, thanks for dropping by. Perhaps you’ll find other pleasant memories evoked…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. […] to X, the tenth album by electronic wizard Klaus Schulze (a major German artist introduced here) and noted that amongst the titles—all named after a Schulze hero—was sci-fi author Frank […]

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  12. […] months back, Vinyl Connection dipped into the massive Klaus Schulze catalogue for the first time (here). One of the reasons it took so long to write about this key electronic artist was the sheer […]

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  13. […] Being transported by Terry Riley helps in understanding Klaus Schulze.  […]

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