Klaus Schulze is the undisputed maestro of electronic music. Since his debut solo album in the early Seventies, Schulze has forged new ground with synthesizer music, creating several signature styles over the years that many consider to be the templates to judge all others in the genre.
Schulze's newest release is a ten CD set. Do not confuse this set with the multiple CD sets released by Schulze during the Nineties (the 10 CD "Silver Edition", the 10 CD "Historic Edition", the 25 CD "Jubilee Edition", or the 50 CD "Ultimate Edition" which collected these previous Editions with five new discs). The material (all of which are studio recordings) found on "Contemporary Works 1" is all-new, however, representing a variety of fresh directions by the electronic master.
KLAUS SCHULZE: Contemporary Works 1 (10 CD set on Rainhorse/Manikin Records)
Each of these ten CDs comes in a cardboard sleeve, most of which sport rather impressive computer art. These sleeves are packaged in a wooden box with a design burned into the cover. A metal clasp holds the box shut. Also included is a 60 page glossy booklet full of color pictures and exhaustive data (which, unfortunately, is all in German).
Allowing to the diversity of the music found in this set, each disc will be individually surveyed.
CD 1: KLAUS SCHULZE: Vanity of Sounds
This disc features 79 minutes of solo Schulze. "Solo" can be quite deceptive though when it comes to Schulze's capabilities. His tendency toward dense structure and multilayering produces music that sounds more like an entire electronic ensemble than any single human being.
Dynamic yet sinuous E-perc urges along a multitude of sequenced riffs and compelling harmonics. These keyboards utilize a variety of source codes, rendered into majestic melodies by Schulze's masterful command. There is a considerably versatile palette of synthesized sounds contributing to these wonderful compositions.
The music is demonstrative and relentless, but retains an unaggressive presence.
CD 2: KLAUS SCHULZE: The Crime of Suspense
Usually Schulze's music is instrumental, making the 71 minutes on this disc unique for the presence of the sultry vocal stylings of Julia Messenger. Also featured on one piece are flute and violin contributed by Thomas Kagermann, which imbue that track with a wistful ethereal quality.
Purists need not despair, for Schulze handles her voice as an equal instrument, blending her vocals with the persistent percussives and undulating electronics. The result has a rather compassionate heavenly air that maintains an elusive presence amid the dreamy melodics.
As this disc's title infers, these compositions accentuate a sonic suspense that lightens the drama while foreshadowing the surprises found in the course of the music.
CD 3: WAHNFRIED: Trance 4 Motion
Traditionally, the Wahnfried band has been Schulze's opportunity to explore collaborative efforts. These releases tend to feature a more relaxed form of Schulze's music, one that has been heading in a decidedly trance direction. These 79 minutes are no exception, and feature Jorg Schaaf, who has been Schulze's Wahnfried partner now for a few releases.
This trance inevitably adopts stronger attributes, injecting the atmospheric mood with livelier sensibilities that cavort and whirl with clever effect. Despite the increase of complexity and swifter rhythms, this music retains a calming quality that seethes as it relaxes.
There is a short (15 minutes is short for Schulze's music) remix by Solar Moon System that carries the music into definitely peppier territory with more prominent percussives, searing guitar, and sneaky vocal snippets.
CD 4: U.S.O.: Privee
For this 65 minute disc, Schulze joins U.S.O. (being Uwe Lehr aka Razoof Lear on drums, and Olli Finken aka O'Finken on guitar). The result is a tasty dose of dreamy synthesizer music heavily flavored by more traditional instruments, giving the pieces a remarkably earthy sound.
A thick bass presence excellently compliments the flowing melodies.
The guitar alternates between obvious guitar notes and tortured string effects. The drumming, although enhanced at its edges with subtle tempos, maintains a solid beat that refuses to wax or wane.
CD 5: KLAUS SCHULZE VS. SOLAR MOON: Docking
For this 77 minute disc, Schulze goes head-to-digital-head with Solar Moon System (being Tom Dams and George Boskamp) in the "Versus" style of remix dueling popular among techno bands. The result is quite a departure for Schulze's normal output.
Complexity is replaced with cyclic repetition as a foundation. This sonic platform does reach further than Schulze's music with the constant presence of organic dub style vocals (not to be confused with the use of sampled vocal snippets). The application of E-perc is far more sedate than Schulze's stylings, being regular and languid instead of surging and dynamic.
The overall mode of this music is deeply rooted in modern techno and trance genres: establishing a model that remains generally untampered throughout. Additions are employed as enhancements that add to the existing music, but rarely embellish it.
CDs 6 through 9: KLAUS SCHULZE: Ballet 1-4
These four discs comprise an epic work by Schulze, totaling nearly 5 hours of music. Joining Schulze are: the masterful cello of Wolfgang Tiepold (on all four Ballet discs), Thomas Kagermann's flute, violin, and vocals (on three of the discs), Julia Messenger's vocals (on Ballet 3), Tobias Becker's oboe (on Ballet 3), and Tom Dams (on all four discs, although his contributions are generally a guest-mix on a track per disc, except Ballet 3, where he assists with vocals, sampling, and programming).
The music found in "Ballet" displays a more quasi-classical sound than anything else in this box set, exhibiting Schulze's use of sampling orchestral instruments among his dense electronics. Keyboard riffs and sequencing are relegated to supporting this classical mode, giving the music a severely traditional flavor that is quite different from Schulze's energetic synthesizer melodies.
This classical mode is hardly absolute, though, for the music does enter into more rhythmic territory frequently throughout the five hours. There are even passages that slowly evolve E-perc tempos, where the sequencing grows as strong as the romantic cello strains.
Various vocalists are utilized throughout "Ballet", their voices lending a humanity to the majesty. Generally keeping to non-lyrical expressions, these voices do not distract from the grandeur of the music.
CD 10: KLAUS SCHULZE: Adds & Edits
This final disc in the set features a selection of shorter pieces (averaging three and five minutes each). These tracks are collaborations between Schulze and the others found in this box set, although there are four pieces by Schulze in solo-mode (including a ten minute composition that examples his epic slowburn quality in a briefer, more compressed composition).
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