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Klaus Schulze - Blackdance CD (album) cover

BLACKDANCE

Klaus Schulze

Progressive Electronic


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Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I liked very much the fine atmosphere on this record! The paintings on the album cover contain perfectly the elements and the moods on SCHULZE's work: Oppressing sound walls paint a large and abstract space, which is habited by surrealistic, organic entities. If you are interested of psychedelic art, surrealism and non-soothing and artistic ambient music, check this album out!

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Send comments to Eetu Pellonpää (BETA) | Report this review (#41276)
Posted Tuesday, August 02, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Klaus Schulze played for the very early Tangerine Dream, and it is clearly noticeable here: this album is between the Phaedra and Alpha Centauri albums; the music here is a bit better than on the Zeit and Alpha Centauri albums, but worse than on Phaedra.

The track on side 1 starts really slowly and gradually, it becomes a bit more loaded. The acoustic string instrument of the first minutes reminds me the Vangelis' Dragon album, while the background linear texture sounds like an harmonica; after about 4 minutes, a mix of tribal and automatic beat enters, and the background linear texture consists in a mix of organ notes and strident moog, reminding the noise of running shoes on a synthetic basketball floor or even some excited chanting birds. The sound lacks of color and depth: it is hardly stereo.

The side 2 starts with vaguely operatic voices through a linear organ arrangement. Around the 6th minute, an alienating rhythmic beat starts and the still present organ has this time some strange effects.

The overall music is absolutely unmelodic, very linear and minimalist. I feel absolutely nothing while listening to this album: the music is just deadly emotionless and VERY monotonous. This is definitely not a good album: Schulze made quite better albums.

Rating: 1.5 star

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#72332)
Posted Sunday, March 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars I only have listened to two albums by Tangerine Dream:"Cyclone" and one recorded live in the early 80s (maybe called "Dominion"). I have to say that I didn`t like both albums, so I thought that I hardly could like this album recorded by ex-Tangerine Dream member Klaus Schulze.

This L.P. was not played for a long time. It belongs to one of my brothers, and I can`t remember now seeing him playing this record. Maybe he bought it in 1982. I remember that I played it twice then, never to play it again. I tried today again to listen to it, so I played it, remembering very little about it, other than I didn`t like it the first time I listened to it. I didn`t like it again. I`m going to explain the reasons:

The album sounds dated, being recorded in the 70s with the electronic instruments which were then in the fad. It is clearly an experimental album, very experimental maybe. The three musical pieces are monotonous, showing too much time in duration and lacking in creativity, other than to "experiment" with the sounds played on a synthesizer or an organ. Maybe the album was more interesting in the seventies, but now, it doesn`t sound interesting for me.

Now, about the musical pieces:

"Ways of Changes": with an acoustic 12 string guitar, percussion and keyboards, plus "galactic noises" also played in the synthesizer. The 12 string guitar is the most interesting part in this musical piece.

"Some Velvet Phasing": a musical piece played only on keyboards. Really boring, IMO.

"Voices of Syn": the most interesting part in this musical piece is the voice of the singer, Ernst Siemon. With his vocals included, this musical piece promised better things than the previous two, but, when the singer stops to sing his part, the monotony starts again, with Schulze playing sustained chords in an organ while playing scales with the other hand, also synths`(very typical of the seventies) "galactic sounds" and it also has percussion, which appears and disappears. The sustained chords only change their sound using some effects. This lasts until the end of the piece, at almost 23 minutes of duration.

There are some good "sound atmospheres" in this album, but the monotony spoils them. I`m sorry if some fans of Schulze`s music don`t like my review, but, as I said before, I really don`t like Tangerine Dream`s and Schulze`s music. I need more variety in the music to be interested in listening again to albums.

Another good point is the cover design, which I really like, being very "surrealistic" a la Salvador Dalí.

Some things that I imagined while listening to this record were some images of a "modern dance company" dancing to some parts of "Ways of Changes" and "Voices of Syn". I`m not a fan of ballet or "modern avant garde dances", but the music in this album could be right for that kind of dance, maybe.

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Send comments to Guillermo (BETA) | Report this review (#75681)
Posted Friday, April 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Content Development & Krautrock Team
3 stars Passable strings synth inventions by Schulze after the two gorgeous and avant gardist "Irrlicht" and "Cyborg". However we cannot condemn "Blackdance" so easily. The introduction of "Ways of Changes" provides some clever floating synth lines with the combination of some repetitive, simplistic but efficient acoustic guitar notes. This captivating start progressively lets the place to more insistent and evident musical sequences made by analog synths and electronic percussions. As most part of Schulze's albums the melodic line never ends and hardly catches the attention of the listener all track long. This inconvenient will be reproduce in the two following pieces. "Some Velvet Phasing" is an atmospheric, hypnotic synth soundscape featuring classic Schulze's synthetic ambiences. "Voices of Syn " is an abyssal composition, a dark spacey hymn with vocals (a male operatic voice). Despite that Schulze includes some innovative elements, his electronic inventions are less daring and explore only the linear and accessible part of his art...Blackdance seriously presents a scission after the grandiose "Cyborg" and introduces the listener into the imaginary of Cosmic music and accessible but delicate synth ambient sounds.

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Send comments to philippe (BETA) | Report this review (#83628)
Posted Thursday, July 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Yeah, it's a trip.

I cannot give a technical review of this album because I really don't know much about the ins and outs of keyboards and electronics. So I'm not rating Schulze's use of the technology but rather my experience of listening to the album.

This is another title with a very wide range of opinions from reviewers, lambasted by some as crap and heralded as a masterpiece by others. While not a big fan of electronic music myself I must say I've always enjoyed this album on an occasional basis. This is not the kind of music I choose for cruising in the car with, but as something to have on in the background while writing or working, it works for me along with stuff by Popul Vuh.

"Way of Changes" begins with mellow synth before we get some acoustic guitar adding nice texture. There are also some hand drums and percussion. The mood of the music is mysterious and the layers of keyboards spacey and intriguing. "Some Velvet Phasing" is the short track here at 8 ½ minutes. Again I am reminded of things like Popul Vuh, Eno, Tangerine Dream. No percussion or warmth on this one, this is just very minimal synth rising and falling to trippy effects. I don't mind this at all, it's quite relaxing. "Voices of Syn" begins with some interesting operatic vocals, a very rich and warm touch to music which some consider cold and emotionless. After a minute or so Schulze joins in. The two continue to build tension until around the 6-minute mark when a pulsing beat comes from nowhere. There isn't an awful lot of variety from this point forward, it's more or less a droning landscape of neutral sound that will drive some crazy. The beats finally fall away in the last minute.

Recommended for fans of this genre and 3 stars for the wider site. Nice, otherworldly cover art suits the music well.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#129996)
Posted Monday, July 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#157815)
Posted Saturday, January 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the first Klaus Schulze album I ever heard. I bought it for £2 from a 2nd hand shop in 1990 solely on the gatefold cover (and the fact that I was a big Tangerine Dream fan).

Unfortunately for me at that time - 'Cyborg' and 'Timewind' were much better, leaving 'Black Dance' as an interstitial anomaly. "Black Dance" is an amalgamation of electronics and live percussion and is a definite progression from his previous album, but not necessarily a good one.

At some points on the 1st track it''s almost like there's too many ideas trying to break through the rigidity of the confines of analogue synths. It's still pretty good - and very bleak.

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Send comments to Dobermensch (BETA) | Report this review (#208857)
Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This Klaus Schulze album is quite pleasant to listen to. IMO, it belongs to the very good ones from the artist. But I am biased, I reckon.

I believe that this one offers serious and melodic lines, beautiful and spacey moments, and gorgeous synth music and rather avant-garde when you bear in mind that it was released in '74.

It is of course quite close in a sense to what TD was releasing in the same period of time, but after all, both were issued from the same school and shared the bill earlier on during their debut album.

This album is rather accessible (to my concepts) and should please any fan of electronic music. It is quite enjoyable, varied (even if the opener might sound repetitive to some ears) and delicate.

My preferred track is the long "Voices Of Syn" but none of the songs featured on the original album can be considered as average. They are all damned good and deserve a global four stars.

The remastered version includes two bonus tracks which are quite good actually. It prolongs the experience by some twenty-five minutes of which "Foreplay" is rather moving and intense.

I like this album quite a lot. This is indeed a might trip.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#237659)
Posted Sunday, September 06, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars BlackDance is Schulze's third release and sounds as pitch black and hermetic as the preceding ones. However, the addition of a few melodic touches like vocals, acoustic guitar, synthesizer leads and rhythmic percussion make it more accessible. The album marks the transition between Schulze's Kraut years and his more popular 'Berlin school' years which would start in the following years.

It is the last album Schulze would release before he got his hands on a sequencer and would start creating more accessible and melodic music like Tangerine Dream had done with Phaedra. By consequence, compared to Phaedra this comes off a bit primitive in a technological sense.

The music however is the most enjoyable from his avant-garde / kraut years. Waves of Changes sets the mood with eerie synths and repetitive rhythmic percussion. Some Velvet Phasing is entirely different. No rhythmic patterns, just very sparse and desolate organs and synths and something that sounds like a mellotron. It's my favorite early-Schulze piece, similar in atmosphere to TD's Mysterious Semblance and Sequent C from the same year. Voices of Syn starts off great with a synth improvising around a collage of dark opera arias from Verdi. A weird sequenced pulse follows. Hard to say what this sound is, it has no tune and consists of a mix of clicks and backwards effects. Very avant-garde indeed. A dissonant organ weaves patterns around it and adds to the disconcerting effect this track has.

I have the 2007 re-release in my hands here and it features two extra tracks from 1976.

- Foreplay 10:33 - Synthies have (no) balls? 14:42

Foreplay is a non-sequence track that has synthesized voices (probably mellotron) fading in and out on top of a synth-simulated thunderstorm. A bit too long again though. Synthies is a bit different from Schulze's usual laidback approach, it has a bit more punch and aggression and disorder to it. But nothing special again. Besides, the extra tracks don't fit entirely with the original album. In just two years, the use of sequencer and moog had entirely changed Schulze's sound.

The booklet says Klaus himself isn't all that enthusiastic about this album but he tells us his 'buddy' Steve Wilson (good friends with Klaus apparently) really loves this album and I think I see why he does. It has a very distinct alluring weird darkness about it. Typically something for Wilson!

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#246858)
Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars Thirty five years ago, I loved this style of music. Sitting in a dimly lit, smoky room, the pulsing synthesizers were a perfect backdrop to the teenage counterculture lifestyle. And Klaus Schulze, at least the few albums I heard back then, were some of my favorites. His choice of sometimes jarring synth patches (back in the days when a synthesist had to design their own sounds) made him stand out from his peers.

These days I find that, while I still enjoy the music occasionally, particularly as background for late night drives, it just doesn't strike me the same way.

The first two of the three tracks on this album are the style I remember. Swirling synth sounds coming in from a ll points in the stereo spectrum. It's somewhat entrancing. The compositions, if you can call them such, are loose, sounding like sound collage experimentation. But very listenable.

The third, and longest piece, Voices Of Syn, begins with some operatic style vocals by Ernst Walter Siemon (not Chris Squire?). Personally, I find that sort of vocal slightly annoying. But about halfway through, the track segues into a Tangerine Dream style rhythmic synth track, which somewhat redeems the track.

I hear that later reissues have some bonus tracks, but, alas, I do not have any of those.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#424776)
Posted Wednesday, March 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Blackdance is usually not regarded very highly in the Schulze catalog, but I actually like it. It's very mellow and depressing, beautiful and sombre.

"Way of Changes" start with moaning synthesizers and gently-picked acoustic guitar intertwined in a slow and melancholic adagio, but it eventually warms up quite a bit and becomes picks up pace with ethnic percussion, bass buzzing, a dramatic melody on the synths, and what appears to be the sounds of birds chirping.

"Some Velvet Phasing" is a sad and dark ambient track that consists only of droning notes on the synthesizers that fade in and out. Soothing, but not much here except an intermission before the next track.

"Voices of Syn" features deep, manly operatic vocals that echo in the distance behind droning electrified organ. After the dramatic atmosphere has been built up, and empty percussive pulse drives the track along as the synth play in an eastern-sounding scale.

The only real problem that I have with this album is that the atmosphere doesn't seem convincing or thought-out at all. It seems that Klaus Schulze made this album just to release something for the sake of having another album on the market. It's not terrible, and the operatic vocals and pulse in the last track are interesting, but it goes on too long, in my opinion. Not Klaus Schulze's best, but Blackdance is a fine addition to an already established Schulze collection.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#438985)
Posted Monday, April 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Blackdance does not show a great deal of progress over its predecessor, Cyborg. (As mentioned on its Wikipedia page, Blackdance is often mistaken for being Schulze's fourth album due to confusion over when Picture Music was recorded, but research has established that it was indeed his third and Picture Music was made after it). Trying to produce epic soundscapes as were heard on Cyborg and presenting into a mildly more digestible format, the album is - like other electronic-ambient works of its ilk - superbly hypnotic background music, so if you like Cyborg or Tangerine Dream's Zeit you can't go far wrong here.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#520238)
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Guldbamsen
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Site and Forum Admin
5 stars "There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it" -Alfred Hitchcock.

HItchcock was a milestone in the art of film making, and these words are often quoted along with his "bomb under the table" anecdote. Two people are sitting at a table doing whatever - completely oblivious about the bomb beneath their table, whereas the audience is quite aware of this hidden terror that could explode at any given moment. They wan´t to cry out and alarm the figures - about the grave danger of the situation, and as a result of this metaphysical stand-off, the suspense created through this particular scene will override any need for an explosion, - or what to the audience must feel like a biblical release.

Now why would I talk about such a thing, when I´m actually reviewing a Klaus Schulze album - you may ask? The thing is, unlike a genre like post-rock that practically lives off the crescendo ie. the explosions, and to some extent can feel beautiful in its own right, Schulze´s music could be thought off as a musical answer to the suspense created by Hitchcock. The explosion can never ever occur, because it will destroy everything going up to the very point of release, and the actual moment of the bang suddenly becomes the prime ingredient of the story and plot. This is why you should never approach Schulze like you´d do most any other progressive artist on this site(apart from a few), because we normally expect fireworks and great big scenes of fulfilment with bangs and lightning.

Blackdance is to me one of the most fulfilling albums in terms of creating atmosphere, suspense and images far beyond anything Schulze could ever have imagined, - and this is my personal take on it.

3 acts. 3 sweeps of magic. 3 chapters from a movie, that you just might have seen.

The sharks are approaching: First cut, Waves of Changes leads the way on our journey with some fluctuating and out of breath organs, that truly sound like they´re gasping for air. Breathing heavily in and out, in and out - with a touch a melancholy and a feeling of anticipation to them, like there is something on the verge of happening, - and then the acoustic guitar chimes in, and fortifies these images of the start of something illustrious. Marching drums appear along with some deranged and freely flowing synth runs, and suddenly the movie gets going. The melancholic start of the music was actually a beautiful woman lying on her yacht - bobbing along on the ocean, unaware of the small cut she had sustained on her right arm, which is hanging very femininely over the ship´s edge. These first bursts of sound leading us up to the frantically paced marching drums, were in fact tiny droplets of crimson coloured blood hitting the surface of the water. Things are getting ominous by now, as you catch small glimpses of dark shadows - appearing swiftly for then to disappear. These shadows are of course bringing with them some maniacal wooden conga sounds which adds to the whole feel of danger and darkness. Like some long lost evil from the depths of the oceans blue.

The moments before impact: Some Velvet Phasing introduces you to the horrific images of our enemies, and with the sad faithful synthesizer singing songs of woe - the white bellies of these enormous predators emerge from out of the darkened waters, and though you´re filled with fear and anxiety, as the sounds of the organs and synths turn elliptic and form huge circular emanations - the beauty of these elegant creatures suddenly strikes you like a punch in the stomach. They start swimming in formation beneath your feet, and you can no longer see the white colourings, all that´s left to the naked eye is the grey ever expanding circles - multiplying with the number of sharks and notes of the different organs joining these naturally forming rings. It sounds like melodic sharks swimming around in a giant underwater cymbal - creating an elliptic recurring metallic noise. The Blackdance is upon us.

Epilogue: Voices of Syn is what happens afterwards. The slaughtering is but a crystal clear allusion. The sounds of the ocean, and the colours of the waters drenched in blood after this horrific massacre - this is what´s left. How these emerge within each other and slowly dilute. The ghastly hovering organs greet ominous soprano vocals, who sings like they´ve sailed to the end of the world and back - with such sorrow and heartache - it would make stones weep. The waters are still interrupted in their natural flows, and bits and pieces of the woman are still floating around. Like some self cleaning oven, mother nature now takes over, and with the arrival of some humming erratic beats, a myriad of small creatures starts swarming around the remains. The mourning feel is still there in the notes, and like the most apt homage to life itself, just like earth to earth and dust to dust, the water slowly returns to its former deep turquoise blue. The snuffling matchbox quality of the beats, the confused bits of piano, the constant drones of the organs - all accomplishing the same thing: creating the most magical sways of electronically infused currents swooping along - hoovering through the most frightening parts of the human imagination.

Disguised as a ferocious shark attack, or purely listened to as a piece of modern electronic sculpturing of music - Klaus Schulze digs as deep as he´d ever venture with Blackdance, and although quite bizarre and avant-gardistic in nature, - I´ll still happily recommend this album to anyone who´s interested in experiencing suspense and danger, Hitchcock style, conveyed in electronic sounds and ominous textures.

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Send comments to Guldbamsen (BETA) | Report this review (#586545)
Posted Sunday, December 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Blackdance is a hidden gem between the avant-garde Ihrlicht and Cyborg and the more commercial Timewind. I was very pleased to get this record on vinyl together with three other lp's of Klaus Schulze, two records of Tangerine Dream and some work of Kraftwerk. It putted me in the progressive electronic music, which also was in some way part of the Krautrock scene, that already got my full attention.

"The Ways of Changes" got some hypnotic drones. Very spacy. What I do like about this song is the someway sinister sound and the percussion in it. No computer drums, but real percussion. Klaus Schulze began his musical career as a drummer after all. The sound becomes really psychedelic, but stays abstract all the time. This song takes about 18 minutes for gettin you hypnotized, but it doesn't bored me for a minute with it's spacy glitterings and magic. A masterpiece!

"Some velvet phasing" is a more harmonic synthesizer piece and fit's more into the symphonic scene. Beautifull tones, but a bit too long. The last composition is based around a men bass operah vocalist. It's called "Voices of Syn" like there are voices coming out of some Egypt crypt. The synthesizers seems to be build upon those vocals. I do like the sound effects Klaus Schulze uses here: a constant tone is getting from high pitch to low pitch and goes back again. Between the high pitches the tone is getting more intense, like the bass tones is getting towards the listener. This composition gets also spacy and psychedelic. This composition is only also too long.

Throughout the record there is always some dissonance and darkness, except in "Some velvet phasing" which keeps the record in balance. This is the best synthesizer record I've heard till now and my only complain is that two of the three compositions seems a bit stretched. Still it's a very nice listening and I often listen it while studying. Four stars for sure!

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Send comments to the philosopher (BETA) | Report this review (#633874)
Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars The first ten albums by pioneering electronic guru Klaus Schulze are all brilliant in their own way. Except, that is, 'Blackdance'. Released in 1974 and diverting only slightly from the now well-worn, slow-burning sonic pathway that Schulze furrowed throughout the 1970s, 'Blackdance' would be the first record by the German composer to feature vocals, though not in the classical sense. Instead, we get weird, dissonant groaning, strange drawn-out moans and some darkly-wrought electro-psych passages that, for whatever reason, lack Schulze's trademark 'sensual ambient tone' which usually envelopes his albums in a cosmic cloud of gently- pulsating and synthesized throbs and echoes. Unlike the carefully-crafted 'Irrlicht' or the calmly-unfurling hypnotic rhythms of 'Timewind', 'Blackdance' feels forced, for once the lengthy running time actually feeling like a dull eternity, a rare sensation indeed on a classic-era Schulze album. That said, it's a rare and uncharacteristic blip from a master of his art, and any other album up until the end of the decade is still well worth exploring, both for those you have yet to explore the dark mysticism of his wonderful records and for the electronic lovers out there in love with Tangerine Dream, Harmonia, Kraftwerk and the like. Simply put then, this is a (very) rare misfire.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#726084)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars Up until fairly recently, I'd had immense problems getting into Klaus Schulze. Although owning many of his albums, it would always be starting with the widely praised `Timewind' that I would dig out to listen to. No matter how many times I tried, I always found it so light and uninteresting. I didn't like the fizzy sound effects and keyboard sounds, and the whole album would drift over me leaving no impression at all. At the suggestion of fellow Archives members Guldbamsen and Tom Ozric, I decided to try another of his albums. Going by the impact that `Blackdance' has had, clearly for me I'd started on the wrong album with `Timewind'.

`Blackdance' seems to be a hugely divisive and controversial Schulze album, with some listeners loving it and others truly despising it. Some find it a rare blemish in his golden run of 70's albums, even considering it a failed experiment by the artist. I can see why many listeners seem to find this album tedious, mundane and plodding, because I do too. I just don't find those as being negative aspects of the music. When I first heard it, I didn't know what to make of it. I don't think I actually liked it, but I found it hugely fascinating. On that first listen, it made far more of an impression on me than endless replays of `Timewind' ever managed. I remember even freezing up, lost in the eerie and unpleasant music coming from the speakers. There's not many albums that make me feel like they completely change the temperature in the room, but this was one. Since then I've truly given myself over to the album, and in many ways it has come to haunt and torment me. Yet I find it's edgy darkness and isolation somewhat comforting. It has also disturbingly become something of a favourite of mine to play at work, a moody and ponderous soundtrack to the quieter moments in my life.

The opening 17 minute `Waves Of Changes' is a very unmelodic and relentless piece, initially built around cold, buzzing and shimmering synths that wrap around a tense acoustic 12 string guitar pattern. It grows more frantic as a menacing beat and ethnic percussion blur with distorted organ and moog. This track is very dramatic, even threatening, with lots of tension and a hypnotic air that reminds me of a spacier and more mysterious version of the Vangelis album `The Dragon'. It feels like you're stuck in a dream, being chased over and over by an unknown danger. You sense a perceived threat, and your instinct is to run.

The freeform and intangible `Some Velvet Phasing' is a somber synthscape full of alien waves of glacial keys fading in and out. Entirely devoid of any percussive elements or beats, it's a vague, morphing and very abstract electronic piece that floats around in you in quite an unsettling manner. It's a very depressing piece that is oppressive and suffocating, making me feel so much isolation and unhappiness. Frequently sad, even depressing, and altogether consuming.

The side long `Voices Of Syn' is a sprawling gothic-tinged and morbid electronic ocean. Beginning with haunting wordless moaning vocals, you listen closely trying to work out what language the vocals are in, or make out proper words, but it's an impossible task. It's like catching something out of the corner of your eye, then turning to look only to find nothing there. You listen closely trying to make sense of the vocals, but they're so vague and alien, with the operatic male voice solemn and mournful - the true wailing of a soul in torment. It's backed by a heavily treated spectral organ that just enhances the funereal and other-wordly tone of the piece. Pounding monotonous beats enter about 6 minutes in, and they push down hard on the listener. They blend with the out-of-tune ghostly treated organ and icy synths that seem to last an eternity before ending on a whirlwind of harsh and morose electronic noise. Time ceases to hold any meaning when you become lost in this track. It's one long nightmarish and repetitive drone to drown in.

I find the bleak painting on the front cover particularly disturbing and unpleasant. There's something very cold and hallucinatory about the alien figures and desolate desert landscape that compliments the music perfectly. It's especially commanding on the LP version.

`Blackdance' is impossibly dark, immersive, abstract space music. Even if it leaves me feeling drained and dejected, I love connecting with the album so personally and deeply, that it makes you truly feel alive. If you respond to it favorably, it's the sort of album to spend your whole life discovering and surrounding yourself with. This album has also helped me get into other Schulze albums in the way that `Timewind' never could.

Alternatively creeping and comforting, a stunning and maddening work of dark art, `Blackdance' is the type of music wonderful endless nightmares are made of.

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Posted Thursday, September 06, 2012 | Review Permalink

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