KLAUS ENCOUNTERS | DEPARTURE AND RETURN

A Dozen Klaus Schulze Albums Worthy Of Consideration

When Klaus Schulze died on 26 April 2022 the world lost one of its foundation rock-electronic composers and a cornerstone of the early German indie music scene that became known as ‘Krautrock’. As someone who discovered his drifting, droning, pulsating synthesiser music back in the 1970s, I found myself in that odd state where loss jostles with acceptance. Meanwhile the spectre of mortality lurks in the shadows doing the arithmetic on how many years older he was than me. Reflecting on all those photographs of Klaus lounging in his studio, a cigarette dangling from his fingers, it was hard not to speculate on whether that lifetime habit was a factor. But it matters not. He is gone.

When a musician with a small recorded output dies, especially when they die young, their legacy is examined with piercing scrutiny. Every song, demo, performance and utterance is dissected and often held aloft as an heroic token of their talent and claim to enduring fame. Jeff Buckley springs to mind, or more recently Amy Winehouse. So what does one do when the artist dies at seventy-four years old, leaving almost one hundred albums and almost half that many again comprising unreleased archival material? I have not done the sums, but I imagine one could play recordings by (or with) Klaus Schulze ten hours a day for the best part of a month without any repetition (other than that inherent in the music!).

When, back in 2018, I wrote Klaus Encounters, an introductory article on Schulze, I had fully intended to add at least two further parts in an attempt to outline his lengthy and influential career. Well, Herr Schulze did appear again in these pages (here) but the imagined survey did not materialise. His departure from the corporeal realm provides an incentive, or perhaps even a behest, to present some personal favourites from his amazing and prolific career. 

Vale, Klaus.

*

Tangerine Dream — Electronic Meditation  [1970]

The first Tangerine Dream album is often confronting in its experimental abrasiveness. Those coming from the smoother sounds of Stratosfear or even Phaedra tend to be disconcerted. More on this fascinating album here. For now we’ll simply note that Klaus Schulze was the drummer.

*

Ash Ra Tempel — Ash Ra Tempel  [1971]

Manuel Göttsching (who also appears on the Cosmic Couriers LPs) was the guitarist and founder of Ash Ra Tempel. Their debut is a trippy album that, despite beginning dreamily on both sides, is not as soporifically spacey as might be imagined from the reputation Göttsching built as a pioneer of echo-laden soundscapes and long, pulsing instrumentals. Partially that is down to the contributions of Klaus Schulze on drums and synthesisers. Schulze’s early work is about as far from new age fluff as you can get. Two extended pieces, one per side, is what you get here, both offering propulsive space-jams and moments of drifting beauty.

*

Irrlicht  [1972]

It may come as some surprise to find that the first solo album by the electronic demi-god 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.

*

Cyborg [1973]

The second KS solo album retains some features of the debut, including filtered orchestral instruments and stately organ drones. The added element here is the EMS VSC 3 synthesiser, bringing the chirps, oscillations and washes that helped connect the term ‘space music’ to Schulze’s oeuvre. Four long pieces, one vinyl side each.

*

Walter Wegmuller — Tarot  [1973]

This is a magnificently bonkers double album featuring The Cosmic Couriers (see below), including Klaus Schulze and Manual Göttsching. As it’s been featured previously, we’ll move briskly on, pausing only to appreciate a mediocre image of the unique Tarot deck Wegmuller designed for the original LP release. Finding the original vinyl in good nick for less than the price of a new automobile makes picking up the holy grail look like child’s play.

*

Ash Ra Tempel — Join Inn  [1973]

Schulze re-joined Ash Ra Tempel for this unique and wonderful album. Side one, “Freak ’n’ Roll”, is a juddering behemoth of rolling thunder, driven by Klaus’s drums and overlaid by his synthesisers. Manual Göttsching’s contributes lightning strike guitar and occasional vocalisations are added by Rosi. The singer features more on “Jenseits”, the ambient second side of the album. This is a superb example of early ambient space-drift electronica. In sum: magnificent.

*

To Be Continued…

23 comments

  1. Jeez, I had completely missed Klaus Schulze’s death. And only 74? Wow! Sounds like he had battled an illness for a long time.

    The album I’m most familiar with is “Timewind”, his fifth, released in 1975. Even though one could say it’s rather monotonous, I really dig it. I’ve used it more than once to fall asleep only to wake up when it ends in a loud, crashing noise! 🙂

    I’ve also listened to some of Schulze’s other albums like “The Dark Side of the Moog” series. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Osiris Pt. 1, the first track of his upcoming final album – sounds spacy. I think I’m going to like it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like ‘Timewind’ a lot, Christian. Maybe not quite as much as ‘Moondawn’, but close!

      The monotony aspect is certainly part of the design. I recall a key conversation with Ms Connection many years ago. I cannot recall exactly what was being played — perhaps Klaus or Tangerine Dream — but I observed that I was really enjoying it and sought (foolishly, perhaps) a comment from my spouse. “Nothing’s happening!” she exclaimed.
      “That’s right!” I replied excitedly, “What’s more, it’s happening very slowly.”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. If the lamentable pun was not enough to lure me to Join Inn then the offer of a ‘unique and wonderful’ album would do it. Will I brave the Sunroom (which has no heating other than the sun through the winter”s window) or play it quietly in earshot of Z, but in the warmth of the Home Inn?
    Thanks
    DD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice ‘Made As Hell’ reference there, DD.
      The quiet half has an interesting title. Jenseits. One of those words that eludes easy capture in English.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. kingclover · · Reply

    Yes, he sure has a lot of material. Remember in the early 2000s when you used to download albums for free onto CD-R’s? Well, I got all this stuff by him and some of them were like 10 CD sets that were about 88 million hours long, and I had many of these. I think it was the ones called Contemporary Works l and ll that were 10 CDs each. But there was a bunch more. You could never listen to all of them in a million years. They had real long tracks that were like 45 minutes or an hour long. But then I also bought some at the store by him cuz they had really nice packaging and stuff. Those ones from the early 2000s were really good. I liked them better than the old stuff, But I also love the old ones like Cyborg and Timewind and stuff like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s Klaus, bless ‘im. Never do in one hour what you can expand to four.
      Although the early analogue material is what captured my imagination as a younger person, I agree that much of the 21st C material shows a great deal more vibrancy and many of his imitators. I’ll feature a few next week and absolutely invite you to add suggestions.
      Cheers, kingclover.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I met Walter Wegmüller many years ago at the Sphinx publisher Dieter Hagenbach in Basel. Very nice tarot cards. The album is totally crazy kraut-rock and certainly not for everyone. But I respect this work because it’s so uncompromising. We’re going to Germany tomorrow. Maybe there will be an opportunity to listen to some of this music on the road. Thanks for the hint!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very cool to have met Herr Wegmüller. I agree hotfox, it’s crazy but crazy-good. Enjoy your roadtrip… Fahr’n Fahr’n Fahr’n…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Last night I began listening to “Irrlicht” which outlasted me, not bedtime fare for the faint of heart I think, unsettling was a good term, maybe haunting. The eeriness stuck me as if Bernard Herrmann had done a score for Phantom of the Opera when the movie was getting to the scary bits. But also a very cool trip. Back in the Ancient 70’s this must’ve seemed pretty extraterrestrial. I wonder how the German audience reacted if they were familiar with Schubert’s song. So what the heck does the title mean? I looked it up and got Jack O’Lantern? Will ‘o’ the Wisp?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, that’s the translation I’ve seen too. Perhaps ‘ghost light’ captures the spooky feel?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Ghost light” is good, I loved hearing the intervals of faint orchestral music in the background, almost like fragmentary memories, or yes ghostly echoes. Very cool.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. kingclover · · Reply

          I always heard that it means “eerie light”. Idk.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Certainly sounds appropriate, too. When I use an online translator, “eerie light” comes back as “unheimliches Licht.” (Which I would’ve guessed was one of those little flashlights for looking down someone’s throat, during a Heimlich maneuver.)

            Like

  6. Klaus was an original. I’ve listened to home for most of my life it seems. His sense of rhythm and his use of vocals and cello always surprise. Also he loved a good play on words it seemed especially if it involved a Floyd song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, Neil. More on that last aspect next week. Though how do we know it was Klaus rather than Pete?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    So cool, this deep-dive, and I like that it’s a bit of a tease too. Thanks for doing this Bruce!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can see that tease part, but I’ll dodge responsibility by pointing at Klaus’s enormous catalogue. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Yeah for sure. You’ve done a nice job of curating here, thanks for that!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Nice one Bruce. I’d kill for the Ash Ra Tempel debut LP on way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too. Centre opening cover, on Ohr. Discogs tells me there are five for sale, with better condition copies going for 500 Euros. I’ll buy us one each, eh?
      (I do have an original Ohr of Schwingungen, though).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Only one copy each?! That’s just plain mean.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A bit of shock and Ohr there.

        Liked by 1 person

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