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Schulze, Klaus: X (Remaster)

The loop reached out across the studio and the kitchen, and then we looped it. Because the musicians dropped their violins when trying to play this passage live for 15 minutes. The tape loop of course was — typical for my compositions! — 20 meters long, haha. – Klaus Schulze, 11/04

The image of a statuesque Klaus Schulze, sitting cross-legged with his back to the audience on a dais covered with plush carpeting, surrounded by banks of keyboard synths and modulars — an image preserved on the cover of this lauded remaster of X — remains one of the most famous in the electronic music annals, right alongside the similarly modular-laden stage-long arrangement of Tangerine Dream's circa 1973-77, and Isao Tomita's own sensationalistic productions.

A bona fide milestone, the ambiguously-titled X yields five epics and one composition of moderate length, all dedications to personalities for which they were christened by Schulze (who we will henceforth refer to by his initials, a common practice). The union of these epics is a gallery of sweeping otherworldly vistas sanctified by the rollicking sounds of a most formidable arsenal; on this outing, KS's rig was no less than his "Big" modular Moog, a MiniMoog and a PolyMoog, a PPG synthesizer and sequencer tandem, an ARP Odyssey, a Korg Polysynth, an EMS Synthi A, and the faithful Mellotron (model not specified, gearfreaks). Chum and Ashra drummer Harald Grosskopf plays his kit for the duration, which lends flashes of Krautrock flavor here and there. Though KS's mission statement has more or less remained the same since he hung up his drumsticks following his departure from Tangerine Dream in 1970 (yes, he's the tall "kid" in the foreground on the back of Electronic Meditation), there are some surprises on this ambitious recording. At the risk of sounding redundant, the overwhelming majority will still be most concerned with those ethereal Mellotron choirs and delightfully sinfully rich analog sounds that are in no short order on X — wispy yet effusive synthetic strings and enveloping spaced-out tones, brawny Moog basses, and the requisite MiniMoog sawtooth patch best utilized for soloing.

A strong opener that emphasizes the Schulzian tradition, "Friedrich Nietsche" opens with typically cosmic fanfare; after the initial electro-FX recedes, a bass sequence begins and the improv morphs into an ongoing movement with Harald Grosskopf's drumming dancing just ahead or behind the bass pulse's mantra. Behind KS's extended MiniMoog solos lingers a backdrop of Mellotron choirs and mutating effects that pad out the aural space; Grosskopf indulges in freeform fills and patterns in the last section. "George Trakl" first appeared in truncated form, over twenty of its intended minutes sliced away to fit it onto a side of black licorice. The restored track is here, transferred from the original analog master, of course. More pastoral in feel, its transitions are suitably on the subtle end of the spectrum, devoid of monumental changes or frenzied soloing — an ever-percolating sequence, down-mixed bass from the "Big Moog," and long-sustaining strings from the ARP Odyssey (which Jurgen Fritz used to great effect on the title track of Triumvirat's Spartacus) make up the scheme of things. At nearly eleven minutes, "Frank Herbert" is by far the shortest piece on this entire set! Coming about thanks to KS's passion for Herbert's Dune series, this track brings KS's hard-charging sequencing back to the fore, the resident eeriness boosted by drones aplenty from the Mellotron. "Friedemann Bach" is another that begins calmly, but its understatedness is shed in intervals with a creeping tension that never quite resolves itself. KS pounds his tom toms (yes, KS, not Grosskopf) a spell at a time as violinist B. Dragic emotes with melodic wails and shrill squeaks.

Side C blasts off with a torrent of volume by way of electronics, but "Ludwig II Von Bayern" finds its voice in an overture performed by a fifteen-piece string ensemble: an octet of violinists, a triplet each of violas and cellos, and contrabass. So much for extemporaneousness, this time out: KS worked on the strings score for "Ludwig II" for an entire month! The result is an engaging, even cinematic progression that's unlike anything KS must have imagined he'd do when he embarked on his solo career. The tempo falls to an eventual crawl, meandering onward in a most labyrinthine manner with lulling trills while KS's machinations negotiate inaudibility. The mantra lifts around the 18-minute mark for a melodic segment that is more like a displaced coda, after which KS slowly begins to reenter the drama amidst the lush contours of unison violins. Shooting-star timbres and clashing ARP & PPG tones preface Grosskopf's resumption of his percussive duties. {One bonus track of noticeably lesser sonic quality, "Objet D'Louis," is a shorter live rendition of "Ludwig II" as performed with an orchestra of young Belgian musicians in September of 1978.} Finally, the mystery and mastery that is X comes to a resolution with the longest — and spaciest — piece yet, "Heinrich Von Kleist" — which clocks in at just under one half-hour. KS sorts layers of sounds nebulous and dense, letting them overlap as browned leaves riding currents of air to autumn's floor. This goes on for quite a while (as you can tell!). KS resumes banging on his toms, and one whole cymbal, and ensemble conductor Wolfgang Tiepold gets airtime with his cello. Finally, everything simply comes to a sudden — end. What a voyage…

Inside Out's handsome digi-pak remaster is bargain-priced, in my humble opinion, and features a nice 24-page booklet with some great photos from the era. Topping two-and-one-half hours of play time, the new, improved X should find its way into your collection in due time, if it already hasn't. Toss that old edition, already!

Tracklist:

— CD 1 —
1. Friedrich Nietzsche (24:50)
2. Georg Trakl (26:04) (only 5:20 on original release!)
3. Frank Herbert (10:51)
4. Friedemann Bach (18:00)

— CD 2 —
1. Ludwig II Von Bayern (28:39)
2. Heinrich Von Kleist (29:32)

— Bonus Track: —
3. Objet D'Louis (21:32)

Total time – 159:28

Added: September 16th 2005
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Score:
Related Link: InsideOut Music
Hits: 2426
Language: english

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