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Mario Schönwälder: Then and Now

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For over a decade, Mario Schönwälder has been crafting electronic music in the style of the Berlin School. His music is often recorded live and composed through improvisational interplay with his associate Detlef Keller. In the Nineties, Schönwälder started Manikin Records, which has grown into one of Europe’s most prestigious EM labels.

Over the years, Schönwälder’s music has developed into a thrilling mastery of the long-form genre, generating synthetic harmonics that patiently evolve from minimalist beginnings into epic pinnacles of breathtaking proportions.

Separated by nearly a decade, the following releases reveal this development in style and delivery.

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MARIO SCHÖNWÄLDER: Solo Trip (CD on Manikin Records)

This release from 1996 features 65 minutes of astrally disposed EM.

Joining Schönwälder on one track are Detlef Keller and Bas Broekhuis.

The electronics are quite versatile, but remain steeped in Berlin School influences, specifically derived from the early recordings of Klaus Schulze. Grand sweeps of symphonic quality approach and immerse the listener, while auxiliary effects liven the mix and enhance the soothing melodies. Textures of plush velvet phase into arrangements of atmospheric disposition, creating lavish panoramas of shimmering delicacy.

Such expansive milieus play host to numerous keyboard expressions. The fusion of these different approaches produces remarkably satisfying results, as the sonic cloudbanks sparkle with defined riffs and endearing chords. Harmonic flows become effusive foundations hovering in the sky, supporting a multitude of enticing melodies that swarm with gracious intent.

Percussion is rare among these tracks. Instead the music pursues an aerial mood that glorifies a floating demeanor. He embellishes that congenial comportment with cosmic garnish. Aspects of galactic scope merge with basic human yearning, establishing a link between mortality and the infinite.

In contrast to Schönwälder’s later releases, the tracks on this CD are considerably shorter (averaging between 5 and 10 minutes), revealing a compression of his creative spirit. A pair of pieces just over ten minutes display the genesis of his romance with longer compositions.

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FANGER & SCHÖNWÄLDER : Analog Overdose “The Ricochet Dream Edition” (double CD on Ricochet Dream)

The “Analog Overdose” series of CDs by Thomas Fanger and Mario Schönwälder have featured some of the most exhilarating electronic music released in the new millennia. Released in 2004, this “Ricochet Dream Edition” continues that tradition, offering 157 minutes of new material.

With the exception of a 3 minute track, all the music contained in this release comes from live performances and studio sessions in Berlin in 2002. Fanger and Schönwälder are joined by Bas Broekhuis on drums on one track (that itself is over 50 minutes long).

The music found in this release exemplifies a fabulous maturity in the long-form style. Languidly dreamy openings progress without hurry, unfurling delicate textures and flowing harmonics, generating a soporific medium that is rife with anticipatory majesty. Elongated crystalline patterns undulate with serene eloquence. Luxurious keyboards provide heavenly embellishments that lace the tranquillity with a subdued vigor, hinting at impending pinnacles of incomparable gamut.

And when those pinnacles arrive, they are seething with cosmic elements and emotional pulsations. Sequenced passages of enormous vitality emerge, heralding exhibitions of grandeur. Rhythms are produced by non-percussive sounds cycled into enticing loops that refuse to remain static, evolving with copious enthusiasm. The music becomes an intricate sonic tapestry in which threads intermingle to create even more complex paragons. With each passing moment, a sense of imminent splendor increases.

“10 P.M. at Bad Sulza” (the 53 minute epic track) begins with a soothing prelude of symphonic endowment which swiftly enters a rhythmic stage of delightful distinction. Glorious riffs surface and commence their own evolutionary growth, blending and separating as fresh melodies are generated. Dazzling effects provide brief diversions in the translucent flow, allowing invigorating new melodies to dawn amid the ongoing ingenuity. Having suitably mesmerized and revitalized the audience, the music adopts a sedate posture for its pleasant conclusion.

Frequently, it seems as if interdimensional barriers have fallen and the listeners are hearing undiscovered exemplary gems performed by a Tangerine Dream from an alternate reality.

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To read reviews of previous “Analog Overdose” releases, go here, here, and here.

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