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Klaus Schulze - En=Trance CD (album) cover


Klaus Schulze


Progressive Electronic

3.32 | 54 ratings

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2 stars En=Trance, originally released as a double-LP in 1988, is a perfect example of ‪Klaus Schulze‬ keeping up with the proverbial times. He used the latest equipment (e.g., Roland S-50 sampling keyboard and TR-505 drum machine, both from 1986) and the latest sounds, epitomized by the Yamaha DX7 mark II, released in 1987, which used FM synthesis, the then-hot technology.* At the time, the DX7 was pretty amazing, and although its sounds could be customized extensively, they were so awesome that many artists didn't see the point. I'm no expert, but it sounds like Schulze may not have approached digital FM synthesis as experimentally as he had undertaken analog synthesis, beginning with Blackdance in 1974 - - and certainly not as experimentally as he had approached modifying Teisco and Farfisa organs before that. For centuries, people have complained that new technologies make people lazy, and relatedly, that there's intrinsic value in hard work, even if it's totally unnecessary hard work. Writing with a fountain pen instead of using an inkwell, driving a motorcar instead of a horse-drawn carriage, using a calculator instead of doing math by hand - - each of these was seen as evidence of the demise of "grit" and of the fundamental laziness of humanity. The truth in this belief is that, thanks to the new technology, you needn't expend much effort to surpass the results of the old technology. What makes someone like Schulze interesting is that we can compare his output across four generations of synthesizer technology: pre-synth, analog (1974-1979), digital (c.1980s and 1990s), and virtual.

The middle two sides of En=Trance ("α-Numerique" and "FM Delight") are the least interesting to me, but not only because FM is among my least favorite types of synthesis. I think it's also because, despite their lengths (‪16:32‬ and ‪17:29‬ on the 2005 Revisited remaster), these tracks seem rushed in places; perhaps because of improvements in technology, Schulze had more time to develop more ideas, more of which he squeezed into vinyl side.** "α-Numerique" and "FM Delight" also suffer from overuse of lead parts, some too dramatic to my ears, and others too shrill.

As far as I know, En=Trance marked just the second album on which Schulze used a drum machine throughout. On eighteen of his prior albums, most rhythms were provided by a waveform, a (melodic) sequencer, or a drummer or percussionist. Here, as on Angst, it's all drum machines. That works well on side one ("En=Trance") and reasonably well on the final track, "Velvet System." But for most of Schulze's music, I prefer the feel of the percussionist following along with - - or keeping up with - - the synthesizer or sequencer.

The best track here is "En=Trance;" not surprisingly, it's the most reminiscent of Schulze's mid-1970s work, especially the movement beginning at 4:15. Over the next few minutes, though, a familiar pan-flute preset exerts itself, and "En=Trance," bless its heart, threatens to become a wholly redundant remake. Luckily, it never follows through on the threat. "Velvet System" is nearly as good; coming after "α-Numerique" and "FM Delight," it represents a return to the pensive sequence-based sound of "En=Trance," at least until 12:30, when an unnecessarily theatrical sequence takes over. "Elvish Sequencer," the relatively brief bonus track on the 2005 reissue, was recorded in 1975, but doesn't sound as out of place as you might think. It's nearly entirely sequence-based - - it's missing the lead synth part common to so many Schulze works. In a nice twist, it has two false endings; but as "Elvish Sequencer" is evidently incomplete, those endings come too soon.

To those FM synthesis fans (or DX7 aficionados) interested in late-1980s progressive-electronic art music, I'd recommend En=Trance, but to those interested in Schulze, I'd suggest trying any of his first ten LPs first.


*Another strikingly modern aspect of the record was its stark, high-contrast artwork.

**En-Trance was the second of Schulze's albums to be released simultaneously on CD, and his second "DDD" release.

patrickq | 2/5 |


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