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Spacewalking with the Nightcrawlers

During the 1980s, the Nightcrawlers were definitely the most prolific American band following the muse of the Berlin School of electronics long before it was fashionable.

The band was also a force to be reckoned with among the indie cassette culture of the Eighties, releasing numerous cassette tapes of their ambient electronics and selling them through mail order and at their many concerts.

As the Nightcrawlers, Peter Gulch, Tom Gulch, and Dave Lunt applied themselves with a fervor to creating a considerable amount of memorable electronic music (specifically in the late-Seventies Tangerine Dream style).

After releasing over forty cassette tapes and three albums, the Nightcrawlers called it quits in the early-Nineties.

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Q: As with many electronic ensembles, there was no leader in the Nightcrawlers. The driving force was a gestalt mind, right?

PETER GULCH: Yes, pretty much so. We had three people with similar ideals and feelings about the music. When we jammed and came up with a "piece", if you will, it certainly was from the melding of three people's feelings. The music sort of formed itself from these feelings. I think it also kept us from getting into conflicts about who was to do what. We jammed and what happened, happened. It was quite magical at times. As far as the business side of the band, we had a fairly democratic method of dealing with things, but in the end, I pretty much was designated as the final decision maker. I dealt with the lawyers and copyright stuff.

Q: With a second album title of "Spacewalk", the band was clearly aware of the bond between electronic music and outer space. Care to discuss the connections?

PETER GULCH: I believe that the connection came from two of the members who were really into astronomy and science. Way before the music-making started, there was real interest in space exploration, science fiction, and such. Electonic music (at least certain forms of it) allowed one to create aural sculptures that clearly were dependent on the cerebral reciprocity between wave and being and whatever inherent formulations that each carries. Space seemed to generate the imagery evoked by this relationship. I suppose that these connections might be different for those of different backgrounds and pre-dispositions. For us, though, the type of music we were doing definitely evoked images of space because they were already there. Rather than go off into too much philosophical discussion on this, I hope you get the idea. What is very interesting, however, is that so many other individuals formed the same types of connections.

Q: With the Nightcrawlers gone, have you been persuing any sonic endeavors?

PETER GULCH: The Nightcrawlers disappeared in 1991. Since that time I was involved with several other E-music undertakings. I worked with Chuck van Zyl on a really excellent space music album entitled "Regeneration Mode". This album received universal acclaim as being one of best space albums ever produced. I have worked until just recently with Chuck's new band (The Ministry of Inside Things) and did many, many concerts in the area. I am going to try to put out either a limited edition box set CDR of some of my own personal music that has never been published or released, or it might even appear on the Manikin Record label in Germany. I don't have an exact timetable in mind just yet. But it will probably be sometime in 2002. I have about 3 hours worth of music that I created during the period 1991 to 1997. As you might imagine, some of the music is definitely "Nightcrawlerish", while a lot is my own explorations into different realms. I think that when this is released, folks will get a whole different perspective on my side. I am currently in the process of editing the material and getting it ready for production.

Q: What was the last scientific discovery that made you go "Wow!"?

PETER GULCH: I have always been keen on science ever since I was a little kid. It pretty much drove my educational leanings with degrees in mathematics and chemistry. I still like to keep up with the latest happenings in science. If I were to pick one of the last discoveries that made me go "wow", I would have to give a nod to quantum computing. This is a really exciting field. It's implications are far reaching for the future.

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THE NIGHTCRAWLERS: Traveling Backwards (double CD on Manikin Records) (As circumstances have it, Manikin Records is sold out of copies of this release. Eurock still has some, though.)

In 1997 the notable German electronic music label, Manikin Records, compiled all three Nightcrawlers' albums ("Nightcrawlers", "Spacewalk", and "Shadows of Light") together for a double CD release. Finally, the many who had heard about this legendary obscure but talented band could now bask in their rediscovered sonic brilliance.

Initially the electronics are ethereal, setting a sonic stage of ambience and cosmic mystery with whispering tonalities and softly churning gears. Cycles of sequenced sounds emerge from these diffusive vapors, establishing a melodic presence which guides the music into even more astral territory.

Soon, keyboard chords enter the mix, enhancing the spaciness with delicate loops and heavenly notes. These elements combine with extremely harmonious results. The softer tones flourish, unfolding into long passages which evolve through the sedate accretion of textures; while the more overt riffs cavort with languid delight. Imagine a stratosphere of sound frequented by riffs in flight, some piercing the air in descent, others flowing like liquid clouds dedicated to lofty existence.

Percussives are rare in the Nightcrawlers' music. When E-perc does appear, it is subdued and functions as an equal participant, not as a guiding force. More often than not, rhythms are generated by the use of non-percussive sounds.

Once these delicate soundscapes are established as the sonic foundation, the music becomes more active with smooth riffs that squeal like cheerful cybernetic children and squirm like minnows in a crystal-clear pool. Maintaining a subdued tempo, the music seethes with restrained power as the drifting melodies spill out like a waterfall of sparkling champagne.

Dreamy is the emphasis with this melodic tuneage. These pieces create passive moods, which are then peppered with lively riffs and swooping electronic sighs. Although this music explores a very ambient sentiment, there are passages that growl with a softly dramatic nature, capturing the awe of sunrise creeping past a planetary penumbra.

This stuff is an excellent soundtrack for your next spacewalk. If you cannot make it out into space, the Nightcrawlers can take you there with the invigorated calm of their electronic music.

All three albums are featured in their entirety on this double CD, a total of 146 minutes of electronic entertainment.

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THE NIGHTCRAWLERS: Barriers (double cassette tape on Synkronos Music)

Most Nightcrawlers cassette releases are highly coveted collectors items, and this 1991 double cassette (their final release) is still available from the band. On it you will find nearly two hours of riveting ambient electronic music.

Rich with multi-layered keyboards, the music drifts with fluid quality. Heavenly synthesizers swoon and sweep without percussive accompaniment. Coherent riffs and sustained tonalities conspire to produce lush soundscapes that are alive with melody and sparkling with energy. Quirky sounds share the air with recognizable keyboard chords to create surging waves of pleasant tuneage.

These melodies are not hyper. Unfolding with a relaxed pace and reverent grandeur, the music is unhurried, yet not without a sense of softly urgent energy.

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VAN ZYL/GULCH/RATH: The Sound Museum (CD on Groove Unlimited)

Originally released in 1991 as a double cassette tape (by Xisle), this music has finally seen CD release in 2001, a decade after its creation by Chuck van Zyl, Peter Gulch, and D. Andrew Rath.

With a flurry of flutish keyboards, sinuous bass tones and muted E-perc, the music on this 75 minute CD possesses immediate appeal. Layers of sequenced electronics blend to form a glistening backdrop for the more forceful riffs that dominate the flow. Athough hardly overt, the tuneage is energetic and compelling. The use of slowburn technique is excellently tempered with vivacious passages that steal the listener's breath with their awesome grandeur.

The melodies are sultry and quite engaging.

There are four tracks on this release, with each piece clocking in at nearly twenty minutes of shimmering sonic entertainment.

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