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Klaus Schulze - Blackdance CD (album) cover

BLACKDANCE

Klaus Schulze

 

Progressive Electronic

3.30 | 85 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This often overlooked early gem by electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze was eclipsed too soon by the international success of "Timewind" in 1975, and after more than thirty years is still suffering unfair comparisons (even in the new "Blackdance" CD booklet). Which is a shame, because there's more to this album besides the eerie Salvador Dali-inspired surrealism of its cover art, again by Swiss designer Urs Amann.

"Blackdance" was Schulze's third solo effort (not his fourth, as some fans believe: see the FAQ page of his official web site for clarification), but it represents a milestone of sorts as his first album to use actual synthesizers. And the music departs from other electronic soundscapes of the period by employing some gorgeous acoustic 12-string guitar, played by Schulze himself, and (briefly) borrowing the operatic baritone of Ernst Walter Siemon, recorded years earlier while the singer was rehearsing some Verdi (possibly the Requiem?).

The album also has more rhythmic zip than expected, providing a not unwelcome change of pace after the somber industrial drones of "Irrlicht" and "Cyborg". There's a surprising array of (again, acoustic) percussion, likewise all played by Schulze, who keep in mind began his musical career as a drummer (first for the embryonic TANGERINE DREAM; later in ASH RA TEMPLE).

It's true there isn't much variation or development over the length of each track (and Schulze was certainly fond of longer tracks, wasn't he?). And all the various shakers and tablas are played with enough metronomic precision to be easily mistaken for programmed electronics. But the album is, after all, titled "Blackdance", not "Black Contemplation" or "Meditation", and the sometimes relentless grooves (20+ minutes long in "Voices of Syn") actually anticipate by more than two decades the hypnotic techno-trances of the next millennium.

By itself, the 1974 album probably deserves no more than three solid stars. Certainly there's far richer music in Schulze's back catalogue. But the 2007 Revisited Records CD reissue supplements the original disc with top-notch packaging (photos, essays), and a pair of bonus tracks which easily push the extended album into four-star territory.

The two extra tracks were recorded in (possibly) 1976, and (in retrospect) given the somewhat dismissive titles "Foreplay" and (I kid you not) "Synthies Have (No) Balls?" Both actually work in tandem, beginning with what sounds like the ominous whine of an air raid siren. It's an appropriate introduction to the 25+ minute blitzkrieg that eventually follows: a frontal assault of mechanized Krautrock mayhem, not unlike a sneak attack by a panzer tank at full throttle, with Schulze furiously working his drum kit.

The composer himself recalls nothing about the music, probably recorded on the spur of a now long-forgotten moment and never meant for commercial release. But together they add a satisfying coda to the otherworldly raga of the preceding tracks, ending an album too long disregarded (even by Schulze himself) with an unexpected and very loud bang.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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