Harald Grosskopf – Synthesist

He drummed for a lot of folks in the 70s such as Ash Ra Tempel, Cosmic Jokers, Klaus Schulze and Wallentstein but in 1980 he stepped up to the front and, as the name suggests, hit them synths. Yet the drummer in him wouldn’t sleep and while the the cosmic space landscapes and pastoral sunsets he draws with the keys are certainly not radical by previous German standards, his unique light but firm rhythms on them propel them into a deeper realm touching almost upon deep house and blissful techno.

As with his friend Manuel Göttsching’s classic “E2-E4” album, this is one that seems to get more love from the Balearic/chill-out crowd than the krautrock heads. Its not hard to see why, nothing on this album would not fit in with both a late-night immersive ambient event or a beachside sunset session. There’s still some weirdness, “Trauma” wouldn’t be out of place to the sight of Peter Davison’s Doctor Who walking the barren desert beneath an alien sky while watched by inhuman eyes from behind the rocks. We’re a world away from the full on LSD-inspired madness of 70s krautrock but the beauty, futurism and motorik rhythms are still here in abundance.

It’s a truly joyous album and the music is every bit as arresting as that classic cover of him covering in silver paint, except for the 40th anniversary edition on German label Bureau B they’ve changed the color to gold to celebrate the landmark. The Bureau B version is also expanded into a double album of remixes from German artists such as Harald’s regular collaborator Steve Baltes of Ashra, later day members of Tangerine Dream and Camera. They all keep rigidly to the spirit of the original album with tight rhythms, space age synth and a cosmic sense of restraint.

“Synthesist” is both a world away from his work as a Cosmic Courier and at the same time the logical continuation of it. In the modern world there are hundreds of cassettes and LPs releases of cosmic synth music but this is still the Grandfather of them all and the well from which the water flows. Drink it up straight from the source.

Klaus Schulze – Body Love

IMG_20150922_192104 Popol Vuh soundtracked Herzog’s best films, Can leant their sounds to both underground arthouse films and to gritty mainstream thrillers but only Klaus Schulze, as far as we know, went and did the soundtrack to a pornographic movie. I do not mean something a little bit saucy or racy but a genuine, full-on hardcore porn film. Of course, it was not really in the same vein as modern, production line pornography. This was for Lassse Braun who fancied himself a skilled film-maker, an artist and a sexual revolutionary. He even went as far as to show this film, also called “Body Love”, at the Cannes Film Festival. Braun later claimed to have quit the industry in disgust at what he saw as its commercialisation and turned instead to sexology, anthropology and erotic fiction. However, if you take a look at “Body Love” it is just an old porn film, whatever the philosophy behind, just one with an unusual soundtrack.

The most unusual thing about the “Body Love” soundtrack is that Schulze seems to make no compromise or alteration to his sound for the medium. This really feels like a straight up electronic cosmic Klaus Schulze album. If you were played it and told it was a soundtrack to something, your first guess would probably be a sci-fi film. First track “Stardancer” in particular sounds like the sound of a rocket launch. Harald Großkopf provides some nice wild drums but Jesus they are low in the mix sometimes, especially on “P.T.O”! Schulze’s keys are hypnotic and psychedelic with some suitably epic use of that choral mellotron thing he bought off Florian Fricke.  “Blanche” is more serene and beautiful with some gentle piano in amongst the swirling electronic pulses and ghostly synths.

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Whatever your views on porn, Schulze has in no way compromised his artistic vision on this release, staying true to his classic sound and producing an album with as many nods to baroque classical as it does to the Berlin-school of electronics. Its energy and pace make it one of those records that lay down the foundations for dance music just as much as any of his peers.

The original edition has lots of images from the film (though nothing more risqué than some bare breasts) but was swiftly replaced by the more subtle version you see in this review. For the CD reissue a fourth bonus track was included, from the same recording sessions and also used in the film. It was simply titled “Lasse Braun” and at over twenty two minute it drastically changes the size and pace of the album. For at least half of it is discrete and ambient and then it builds up into something quite wild and intense.

Is this an album you’d pop on in the bedroom? Perhaps. It’s not an obvious choice but it could not do any harm unless you were just trying to sleep. Is it an album you’d pop on in the living room to listen to with friends? The original vinyl version is but the extended running time of the CD version makes it a bit hard going for the casual listener. Still, “Body Love” is a classic piece of German 70s electronica that has aged beautifully.
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Cosmic Jokers – Planeten Sit-In

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The criminally under-rated Cosmic Jokers project is often the subject of scorn and derision, perhaps because of their more jam-based structure as opposed to the song forms of many of their contemporaries. Perhaps it is because of the ambiguous legality of it all and the seeming lack of awareness of the participants owing to the producers handing out mind-altering drugs in heavy supply.

None the less, “Planeten Sit-In” remains a wild piece of space-rock. Klaus Shculze wigging the electronics for all their worth whilst members of Wallenstein rock out with Ash Ra Tempel whilst in higher states of mind. The resulting jams may not showcase the artists at their most proficient but they certainly show them at their wildest and most primal. Tribal drums, spooky electronics, deep bass and weird acapellas. Schulzian electronics regularly loom high in the mix and there is an even a moment of piano towards the end of “Loving Frequencies” that makes me think of Brian Eno with Cluster.

The track listing could be considered a bit misleading with none of the “tracks” being very long and are all segued. Unless you are listening on CD or computer files whilst watching the track display change, you would not know that “Raumschiff Galaxy Startlet” had ended and “The Planet Of Communication” (itself only 47 seconds) had begun. Oh, and that segues right into the 35 second “Electronenzirkus”. Perhaps the different song titles are used to mark out the different sources. Knowing the methods of uber-kosmik producer Rolf Ulrich-Kaiser, this album will be a psychedelic Frankenstein’s monster stitched together from different jam parts. The only pause is for the end of side one which concludes with the aforementioned “Loving Frequencies”

Over to side two and “Electronic News” is nothing short of an amazing trip, like Stockhausen at a rave, all weird dark electronics hanging out with throbbing pulses that mulch the mind. It yields to the ritualistic rock of “Intergalactic Radio Guri Broadcasting”. Someone is singing far away from the microphone and quite clearly off their face in a major way. The rhythm starts to evolve into a groove and with Schulze on electronic overdrive it verges on proto-disco/techno. A brief 41 second all electronic interlude gives way to “Interstellar Rock: Kosmische Musik” which is the sort of psychedelic space drone rock you’d associate with someone like White Hills.

Another 46 second Schulzian interval and we are onto the climactic “Der Planet Des Stemenmadchens” which at over 8 minutes is far and away the longest song on here. Primal rock rhythms reminiscent of Cromagnon and plenty of Schulzey electronic wiggins. It goes all sci-fi, like an instrumental version of The White Noise. The odd thing is the track very slowly fades away, melting the record out rather than going out with a bang. It leaves the listener a little underwhelmed at the end of listening which may in part account for the albums lukewarm reputation but whimpering climax aside, this is a great album.
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Klaus Schulze – X

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Klaus Schulze’s gift to himself to celebrate his tenth release is a 16-page-libretto included in this double-abum. Time for Klaus to look back on his career so far: from the early days in various groups to his adventures as a solo-performer. The cool pictures showing him as part of the early incarnation of Tangerine Dream or playing drums for Ash Ra Temple are already worth buying the record. But it is also a strange and egocentric move to release a record so decidedly self-historicising.

The compositions on the record are named after philosophers, poets and other historical personalities who may or may not have inspired Klaus Schulzes music. This is another self-assured if not megalomaniac statement: Naming a song “Friedrich Nietzsche” is like saying: “Well – yeah, Nietzsche, quite a character!” It’s hilarious! Nigel Tufnel for electronic musicians!
SAM_0765In respect to this not-so-thoughtful (but funny) conceptual approach it’s no surprise to learn that the accompanying liner notes to “X” written by Schulze and KD Mueller are not very lucid when it comes to aesthetic strategies or conceptual ideas behind the music – because at the end of the day there are none! Or at least: none of that – besides a longer quote from Schulze that his music’s based on emotions and the very moment it is performed in – is articulated in the linernotes: Schulze is just writing in a “been-here-done-that”-style on his so far career, while KD Mueller’s piece is just pseudo-intellectual bullshit.
SAM_0764It’s as simple as that and there’s nothing wrong with it: the music’s a result of Klaus Schulze’s personality, his ability to monitor/operate his synthesizers and the emotional state he’s in during a recording-session. The rest is left to post-production – and all the references delivered with the music are mostly ornamental.

But – like I said – there’s nothing wrong with this somewhat sentimental method as long as the results are as good as they are on “X”. Leaving the random, self-historicising blurb aside there are six pieces of electronic music, classic Berlin-School-Style. Some tracks feature Harald Großkopf on drums (which is something that I’m not very keen on), some feature symphonic arrangements and a more romantic touch (“Ludwig II. Von Bayern”), so there’s plenty to discover and Klaus Schulze is showing a broad palette of styles using about ten different synthesizers to which he dedicates the record:”Dieses Werk ist meinen ach so geliebten Synthesizern gewidmet” („This opus is dedicted to my oh so beloved synthesizers“).

So, giving the conceptual side of the record a second thought: Maybe “X” is a good (if not the best in terms of musical variety) record to start listening to Klaus Schulze if you never heard a single note of his music before. It’s sort of a beginners-guide – guided by the man himself (some nonsense included if you can read/understand the German language liner notes).
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review by Holger Adam