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Klaus Schulze: Irrlicht (1972)

Klaus Schulze sure played an important role in the world of electronic music and Krautrock. First by being a member of Tangerine Dream and appearing on the album Electronic Meditation (1970), and then moving on to Ash Ra Tempel and appearing on their self-entitled 1971 debut. He left the group shortly thereafter to embark on a solo career, but up until 1974, he sporadically involved himself in other groups like the Cosmic Jokers (a unintentional Krautrock supergroup involving late night jam sessions that got released behind the backs of everyone involved), Code III, who released an obscure album called Planet of Man (1974), and let’s not forget the one-off reunion of the original Ash Ra Tempel in December 1972 that made up the Join Inn (1973) album. Schulze discovered it was increasingly difficult to deal with a group because he found it a pain in the ass to get everyone to decide what to play, and to him, felt like it took more time doing that than actually playing the music, so that’s why he went solo.

Schulze had a career parallel to that of Tangerine Dream. Like TD, his earlier works tended to be very experimental and not always easily pigeonholed, although many call this early phase “Krautrock”, and after about 1974 started recording electronic albums on the Brain label after being dissatisfied with Rolf Urich Kaiser and his label Ohr (after 1973, Kosmische Musik), thanks to the Cosmic Jokers fiasco that brought an end to Kaiser’s career and label.

Anyways, Irrlicht was Schulze’s first ever solo effort, released after his initial departure from Ash Ra Tempel. He was initially a drummer (as you know from Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel’s debut albums), but by this point was losing interest in drumming so he decided to be a full-time keyboardist. It’s interesting to note he didn’t even use a synthesizer on this album, he had yet the funds to acquire one, so he made due with what he got. He had an organ and rigged it up, along with the amplifier, to get it do things they would not normally do, including a bunch of sound effects synthesizers could do. Unfortunately this caused the amplifier to be fried after the recording of this album. He called this album “Quadrophonische Symphonie für Orchester und E-Maschine” (“Quadrophonic Symphony for Orchestra and E-Machine”), because aside from Schulze himself on organ, guitar, voice, percussion, and so on, he had the Colloquium Musica Orchestra as well, but the strings end up so distorted you could swear it was a Mellotron! Aside from the organ and orchestra, you really have a hard time recognizing the other instruments being used, as I seriously doubt he used the guitar or percussion in the normal way on this album.

Anyway, the album starts off with “Satz: Ebene”, a very interesting experiment with droning organ. The orchestra peeks through from time to time. He does some changes in the droning, as well as getting some pulsing effects too. After 23 minutes of droning, he settles down with “Satz: Gewitter (Energy Rise – Energy Collaps)” which has a mellower, spacy feel, in that rather sinister feel. This is perhaps the piece that sounds closest to the Ash Ra Tempel of old (but no guitar). “Satz: Exil Sils Maria” is a nice experiment in ambient sounds, making it really difficult how he produced those sounds. Pretty tripped out stuff. It’s not all that difficult to say that the early stuff of Schulze isn’t too far off from what Tangerine Dream was doing around the same time (like Zeit), but he had his own approach distinguishing him from TD.

Schulze newbies are probably advised to check out one of his mid ’70s electronic works like Timewind (1975), but this early album certainly is a great album to have to see the origins of one of the masters of electronic music!
– Klaus Schulze: organ, guitar, percussion, zither, voice, etc.

with: Colloquium Musica Orchestra

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