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Klaus Schulze - Irrlicht CD (album) cover


Klaus Schulze


Progressive Electronic

3.57 | 185 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The title of Klaus Schulz's 1972 debut album translates, perversely, as "Will o' the Wisp", an ironic tag for some of the purest, most powerful noise ever recorded.

Schulze was of course a founding member of both TANGERINE DREAM and ASH RA TEMPLE, a Krautrock drummer in those days but with higher aspirations. So he traded his drum kit for a small roomful of primitive synthesizers, and proceeded to wage war on the more polite strain of meditative electronic music then coming into vogue.

Keep in mind this was during the age (at least in Germany) of the big cosmic drone: think of TD's "Zeit", recorded in the same year but sounding nowhere near as sophisticated as their ex-drummer's first solo effort. The album is subtitled "Quadraphonic Symphony for Orchestra and E-Machines", but Schulze was no Rick Wakeman (thank God), and his orchestra couldn't hope to compete against the sustained hum of his generators during the awe-inspiring 29-minute opening track. It goes way beyond the limits of a simple drone: this is ambient music for titans.

Imagine yourself attending a formal concert hall symphony. The woodwinds and strings are quietly tuning; the conductor is approaching the podium.when out of the ether some sort of otherworldly buzz gradually begins to overwhelm the auditorium, fading in and out, while the hapless musicians try in vain to play through it. That's the experience of "Ebene, Gewitter (Energyrise-Energycollaps)", before the track surrenders to a mind-bending, monster movie organ, played loud enough to scare away even the toughest headbanger, and about as far removed from New Age navel-gazing as synthetic music can get without threatening your sanity.

The remainder of the album (another 21+ minutes, very generous in its original vinyl format, but it needs to be heard on CD) is no less frightening, but on a much quieter level. "Exil Sils Maria" is music for contemplating the void, the soundtrack to an endless alien abyss recalling the cyclopean vistas of an H.P. Lovecraft cosmology.

These days, the popularity of serious electronic music is in direct proportion to its level of discernible melody: witness the very mixed reactions in this forum to the often amorphous, groundbreaking work of the earliest Tangerine Dream. Be forewarned, the 25-year old Klaus Schulze was crossing the same sonic terra incognita, although his subsequent, sequencer-laced efforts were (not unlike the later TD) more easily accessible.

Final verdict: this is ideal Halloween music for misanthropes who hate trick-or-treaters. It's should be one of the cornerstones of any well-rounded electronic music library, but I wouldn't recommend the album to borderline manic-depressives for late night headphone relaxation.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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