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Keller & Schönwälder: Kosmic and Spacey

Detlef Keller and Mario Schönwälder are dedicated to keeping the sound of the classic European electronics scene alive with their collaborative performances. Not just the Berlin School, but with severe emphasis on the Klaus Schulze courses.

Their music revels in the dense application of electronics to rhythmic patterns and astral textures that wash over the listener like a sparkling surf. Background sequences are established, then littered with punctuating riffs of delicate yet demonstrative nature.

Complex and energetic, their electronic music crackles with cosmic proportions.

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KELLER & SCHÖNWÄLDER: Concerts (double CD on Manikin Records)

This double CD features a total of 129 minutes of incredible live electronics.

On disc 1 you get 56 minutes from Keller & Schönwälder's performance at Club Knust in Hamburg, Germany, on July 20, 1998.

On disc 2 you get 73 minutes from Keller & Schönwälder's performance at Club Stammheim in Kassel, Germany, on September 21, 1997 (at 4 AM). Here, the music takes the form of a single vast track where the music refuses to dwindle.

The nature of this music is slowbuilding textures of electronic sequencing. Temperate intros lead into synthesizer pastiches of melodic and non-percussive notes functioning as rhythms. While cyclic riffs generate a foundation, further riffs are applied to compliment the pleasant backdrop. Some of these additions enter the foundation, while others come and go as external enhancements.

There are numerous aspects to this music. Sweeping heavenly airs act as a canvas or more defined electronics which fall into repetitive loops, creating a rhythmic sense for the more nimble-fingered keyboard triggers. These latter riffs soar with cosmic destinations, contorting as they rise, twisting in the sonic breezes of the other sounds.

These overlapping sonic patterns grow in complexity, each new audible structure increasing the density of the music, adding depth and charm to the digital swarm, until the entirety is so crowded with appealing vibrations that a constant state of crescendo is achieved.

Bliss can occur frequently in such ongoing creations, especially ones of such extreme duration as produced by Keller and Schönwälder. It is a rapture encouraged by numerous luminous melodies swimming together in the same auditory canal.

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KELLER & SCHÖNWÄLDER: The Two Piece Box (CD on Manikin Records)

This 1999 release is not a collaborative effort. Instead, the CD offers a composition by each of these normally paired synthesists.

Detlef Keller's "Another Temptation" is a 34 minute piece of simmering electronics tinged with a dark side. Beginning with an interplay of drifting tonalities and growling pulsations, the music gradually develops a galactic touch through periodic encounters with shuddering strangeness. These aspects coalesce to form a commanding dose of hypnotic tuneage. Just as a crisp E-perc presence enters the mix, the music takes a decidedly more energetic turn. The riffs swell with catchy flair, fingers dancing across keyboards to attribute a livelier pace to the interstellar journey. Strangeness continues to appear at the fringes of the nest of compelling melodies. As the composition enters its final third, the mix is powerfully alive with splendid sonic sculpture, primed for an increase in its magnificence, taking the piece into epic territory.

Mario Schönwälder's "The Quiet Room Final Mix" is a 30 minute piece with distinctly similar attributes put to wholly different application. Here, the softly somber intro gives way to a more abstract structure of sing-songing pitches accompanying a flutish keyboard backdrop. Denser electronics, cyclic and more melodic, creep in from beyond the horizon, heralding the appearance of shuffling E-perc and more involved melodies. Although hardly ambient, the music remains low-key, exploring various aspects of the listener's peripheral perceptions. Symphonic hints and a recurrence of those sing-songing pitches (now evolved into a piercing ephemeral sound) accompany the music as it marches into regions of more intricate heavenly nature. The interplay of riffs becomes pronounced, enticing attention rather than commanding it. The understated power of this piece is achieved by its sedate application of seething force.

A cosmic balance is created by the conjunction of these two compositions. Each employ similar technology and inspiration, yet each piece shines with alternate appeal. Each utilize a rich sense of melodic rhythm, Keller taking a denser path, Schönwälder going a more ethereal route. Each example satisfies with lustrous triumph.

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BROEKHUIS, KELLER, SCHÖNWÄLDER & FRIENDS: The Annazaal Tapes (CD on Manikin Records)

Released in 1999, this CD features 76 minutes of collaborative material recorded live during a concert in Nijmegen, Netherlands, October 17, 1998.

Broekhuis, Keller, and Schönwälder are present throughout the entire concert. The Friends who join them are Specht and Wienekamp.

The music is remarkably delicate as it launches into "Ghost in the Machine". A brief splash of environmental sounds gives way to a spectral drift of electronic waves and heavenly pulsations.

This ambient cruise is given a more energized pace by the gradual influence of a surging sequencer and percussives. Church bells and alternate analog riffs appear to crowd the air with their intertwining vibrations. The result is a notably peppy piece ("731") that luxuriates in the fusion of these sinuous riffs and newcomers to the mix. Everything persists in straying from apparent repetition, evolving with playful deviations.

"Shapes" is the longest piece on the CD (25 minutes). It starts strong with rumbling sequencers and snickering E-perc following an accelerated pace into busier territory. Classic synthesizer sounds run away with the melody, urging things into intricate riffing accompanied by superbly interweaving sidereal electronic rhythms. Soon, weirdness happens, enhancing the ongoing business with celestial charm. Heavenly strings sound like distant siren calls. All rushing toward a locomotive climax.

It is no surprise that the musicians are as exhausted as the listener at this point. Certainly time for a more relaxed piece to recharge everyone involved. Muted tribal percussives and somber tonalities set a comfortable pace for "Unter Kontrolle". The piece mesmerizes with its soothing rhythms, lulling the listener for the sneaky resurgence that is about to occur. Tribal percussives become crisp E-perc, the tonalities grow more rhythmic without losing their somber edge. Things never quite reach an outburst though.

The music takes an extremely fragile turn with "Fallen Angel", delivering twinkling lights and ambient buzzing. The piece meanders, drifting like a snowstorm of feathers on a breezeless field.

The pace and complexity picks back up with "Speed". E-perc and keyboards compound swiftly to generate a riff-under-pressure, complete with prescient flashes of what is about to rip forth: an explosive swarm of electronic sequences striving for more and more velocity.

Which is followed by the closing piece, "Slowmotion", a classically tinged ambience of celestial tones and traditional piano. Serious melodies evoke contemplation, urged by a synthetic heartbeat and hints of church bells.

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