Klaus Schulze

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The finest Schulze tracks

Here are my favourite pieces by electronic music maestro Klaus Schulze, grouped into various categories (above), and then listed chronologically. Masterpieces are in bold. I'm pretty sure we'll find most of this music on the playlist as we queue for St. Peter's gate, sung with live angelic choir. It's pointless trying to contain these amazing works in mere human language, but I've had a go :-)

I've made quite a few choices, but he's made quite a few records! See also this Diskographie (auf Deutsch) and another in English which includes bootlegs. I must confess to not having heard any of the later albums from 1993-2008. Many of these albums are available at the world's best record shop, Ultima Thule in Leicester and online. Just in case you can't figure it out, and you're new to Klaus' music, just buy X!

[UPDATE: I just noticed that the KS Circle has posted a readers' 2010 Top Ten on the official website, which makes similar choices to mine below.]

[UPDATE 2: Recently I got most of the Revisited Edition La Vie Electronique boxed sets (#1 to #10, i.e., all the ones I wanted with pre-1986 material), but haven't had time to digest all 30 CDs (!) yet let alone review them, although I'll just say that there are some real gems in there!]

Kosmische klassiks - the floating space music
Track name Duration Album Year Guests* Comments
Satz: Gewitter / Energy Rise - Energy Collaps 5'39" Irrlicht 1972 Orchestra Thick slabs of processed orchestra and organ drones in a darkly cosmic mode. This spacey ending to Side A turns surreal with reversed tape effects and VCS3 alien warblings. Many later Schulze tracks also have a bizarre/epic cosmic coda like this, to shock and shake the ears after a long piece of rhythmic/floating music.
Neuronengesang 24'57" Cyborg 1973 Orchestra Subatomic sounds from inside a brain. Very big sound, since it's within your head: oozing, shifting, whooshing, pulsing.
Crystal Lake 29'15" Mirage 1977 - An absolute masterpiece, on so many levels. Sublime sunlit icy landscapes of metallic sequences, polyrhythmic patterns and impassioned melodic interplay. Music doesn't get any better than this.
Heinrich von Kleist 29'32" X 1978 HG A far-reaching cosmic voyage to encounter alien races and vast unknown civilisations. This is a splendid example of heartfelt celestial space music, truly symphonic in scale, with strange experimental sounds echoing around in the void. Halfway through the heavenly Mellotron choir appears as we fly into the nebula... The sound is so rich, with Mellotron strings adding huge bass drones. Nearing the end ritualistic drums join in pounding a slow hypnotic mantra as the choir rises to ecstasy.
Sebastian im Traum 28'21" Audentity 1983 WT, MS, RB Surrealist mind games and experimental sonic techniques. Awakening in a bizarre haunted castle of many doors, then waking up again. This piece alternates between abstract textures of unheard sounds and a lilting yet disquieting recurring theme on glockenspiels. Cellos (both real and imaginary) echo and dance within these strange halls chased by ghosts of our children. The epic finale brings the themes to an uneasy unity. Am I awake?
Invisible Musik 18'07" Muting the Noise 01 [compilation] 2008 - A heartfelt return to form, long slow melodic textures

Cosmic classical music - orchestral masterworks
Track name Duration Album Year Guests* Comments
Ludwig II von Bayern 28'39" X 1978 Orchestra, HG Huge classical work for string orchestra, synths and drumkit. Like a gothic cathedral, it is truly epic in every way. It begins with Big Moog soundscapes and thunderous effects setting the scene before a lush string orchestra enters a vast hall with an impassioned main theme. A pulsing cello octave ostinato continues relentlessly through most of the piece. Mellotron choirs enter after seven minutes while the pulse disappears for a time. When Harald Grosskopf enters on drums, he changes the world forever. A Brucknerian masterpiece.
Amourage 10'37" Audentity 1983 - Tender romantic miniature for piano, Minimoog and CS80 strings, a very minimal work that has grown on me over the years.
Five To Four 7'57" Dreams 1986 AG A curious dance in 5:4 time, lilting layers of counterpoint: synth, harpsichord, bassline, brass sounds. Then Andreas Grosser's nimble piano solos weave around, the music turning corners into different timings. Unique.
A Classical Move 9'40" Dreams 1986 AG Big orchestral samples.
The Real Colours In The Darkness 12'02" Inter*Face 1985 US Actually an earlier lost version of the epic Inter*Face, not Colours in the Darkness as it claims in the sleevenotes/title. This is a more cosmic and introspective version of the same melodic and harmonic ideas, without drums and with a plangent oboe sound replacing the Minimoog lead voice, and spacey modular Moog sounds instead of gongs.
Inter*Face 24'49" Inter*Face 1985 US A massive epic tour-de-force, the piece unfolds from atmospheric aquatic beginnings into polyrhythmic patterns, everything flowing with real mastery. The solo Minimoog is totally sublime throughout, dancing around long canyon echoes of itself. Orchestral samples add a serious edge and launch into a powerful groove, with limitless modulations into distant keys which keep the music travelling ever onwards, never sounding the same even though the material is related. Ulli Schober's timpani and gongs take the music to new heights. The drums wait until six minutes in to begin their steady, infectious pulse, which swells and lifts with stately poise. Arpeggiated bell sounds ricochet around this spiralling melodic maelstrom. This is what Mahler would have wanted.

Rhythmic drives - sequencers and drums
Track name Duration Album Year Guests* Comments
Ways Of Changes 17'13" Blackdance 1974 ? Strange mantric pulsing rhythms.
Mental Door 23'00" Picture Music 1975 - Open the door in your mind... Spacey wafts of sound call from the ether. A bass synth lead melody duets with a heartfelt higher tune over organic drone chords and abstract electronics. The melodies rise in intensity and then Klaus himself bursts in with some very cool drumming (sounding almost like drum'n'bass) on drumkit and hand drums that evolves and dances for the remaining fifteen funked up minutes. This album was recorded to four track tape using a 16-channel mixer, Revox tape echo and Schulte Compact Phaser, the instruments being just EMS VCS3, ARP Odyssey and 2600, Farfisa Professional Duo organ, drums and percussion.
Floating 27'15" Moondawn 1976 HG Consisting of a pulsing eight-note stereophonic echo sequenced bassline, overlaid with infinitely sustained chord drone, high strings, glittery synth tones, Minimoog lead, Synthi FX, and Harald's masterful drumkit playing, this music could perhaps in theory be considered repetitive... until you listen to it; the fiery rhythmic drive and forward momentum of this epic heads-down groove that just sits in the pocket and could happily go on forever, modulating into various keys sometimes briefly and sometimes remaining for many minutes. Midway through a haunting piano-like melody appears, like a second main theme. Heady stuff.
Stardancer II 14'15" Body Love Vol. 2 1977 HG Opens with spiralling synths and majestic Mellotron choir. Crashing cymbals and thunderous noise sounds echo around this bombastic introduction, before a dominant main sequence begins on just one note underpinned by dextrous drumkit. A swirling Minimoog solo soars over this powerful rhythmic base. [Stardancer on Body Love is a slightly different version, also good. In fact, the two albums share a similar layout: Stardancer I/II is a strident opener, then a contemplative long second track, and a 27+ minute epic on the other side.]
Nowhere - Now Here 29'02" Body Love Vol. 2 1977 HG Tender romantic symphony. A slow first section breaks out into a quick second movement.
Friedrich Nietzsche 24'50" X 1978 WT, HG This piece is so good it made me read Nietzsche (aged 17).
Georg Trakl 5'25" X 1978 HG Understated, noble, refined, classic Schulze. Wonderful poetic jazz drumming from HG. I've not yet heard the longer 10'51" version on the CD reissue.
Frank Herbert 10'51" X 1978 HG Intense right from the start, HG pits metronomic drumkit against squealing Minimoog over a driving sequence backdrop, in a similar vein to Stardancer I/II from Body Love.
Sense 51'00" Live 1980 HG The 51-minute version has a massively extended intro and ending (the LP version is a mere half-hour chunk from the middle). The mesmeric sequence begins twelve minutes in, gradually accompanied by HG playing impeccably on drums, with telepathic interplay. That this is just two guys (and two eight-note analogue sequencers) performing live is an amazing achievement. After a series of developmental chord changes, Klaus turns to the Minimoog to begin extensive solos. At twenty-seven minutes the sequence mutates into strange pulsations as the music turns inward, dropping down to just hihat as the sequence returns in the dominant to develop further. Lush chords provide a backdrop for a tender melody, building up the harmonic tension. Cymbals paint splashes of colour before eventually the drums and Minimoog return. I wish I'd have been in the audience that night.
A Few Minutes After Trancefer 18'20" Trancefer 1981 WT, MS First steps with digital drum sounds and digital sequencers.
Silent Running 18'57" Trancefer 1981 WT, MS Haunting. A wistful main theme in semitones sets the mood. Wolfgang's cello is inspired as ever, as it dances around computer models of itself. Michael's offbeat percussion cuts across the trance-like pulse.
Spielglocken 21'24" Audentity 1983 WT, MS, RB Archetypal Schulze track with real dynamism from early digital synths with classic analogue solos and sequencers.
Warsaw 24'16" Dziekuje Poland Live 1983 1983 RB This album features live versions of pieces from Audentity and shares the soundworld of Trancefer and Drive Inn. The track begins with RB's electric piano and KS playing orchestral hits, and then sequences prepare for take off amidst waves of pulsing Fairlight samples and crashing percussives. After six minutes the goosebumps begin as KS delivers an incredibly intense solo putting the Minimoog through its paces as if his life depended on it, switching for a while to a CS80 brass sound. After a further fifteen minutes all other instruments fade away leaving the Moog to practically destroy the concert hall with bass at the end, before a quiet Fairlight lament sounds a calming coda.

Les Beats Planantes - early electro beat music
Track name Duration Album Year Guests* Comments
The Looper Isn't A Hooker 8'17" Dig It 1980 - Dawn of the Digital Age. Cosmic sweeping sounds pour liquid light over deep dark drones and thumping kick drum. Main sequence START. A weird leadline sings over a dazzling array of syncopated percussion. This track is somehow reminiscent of Robert Schroder
Weird Caravan 5'03" Dig It 1980 ? A sampled hip hop drum loop in 1980!
Surrender 8'41" Angst 1984 - Massive drum beat takes no prisoners.
Beyond 10'16" Angst 1984 - Shimmering hyperspace sounds and massive planets hurtle past a slow pulsing rhythm and bassline with live percussion.
Pain 9'36" Angst +also Macksy 12" 1984 - Powerful driving beats and a yearning melody that washes over you to dissipate anguish.
Nichtarische Arie 13'47" Inter*Face 1985 ? This vocal version of Macksy with bombastic percussion was a bonus track on the Inter*Face reissue.
On The Edge 7'58" Inter*Face 1985 US Classic deep house bassline and syncopated drum groove, with uplifting majestic ninth chords and sharp synth brass stabs. This track has a very cool Detroit vibe to it and the wonderfully offbeat bouncing bassline is genius itself.
Colours In The Darkness 9'12" Inter*Face 1985 US Weird sine wave sirens herald this dark and powerful piece. Moody string melodies interweave with undulating beats and fizzy synth sounds.
The Beat Planante 7'24" Inter*Face 1985 US Relaxed chords and soaring strings stroll around over a complex groove in which you're never sure where the downbeat is. Pay attention to the hi-hats, expertly programmed as played if by a drummer - well Klaus was originally a drummer, so that explains it. When the snare drum comes in (not until 4'54"!), it changes everything and resolves the rhythmic tension.

The Guests

These musicians made extra-special contributions to this music.

Other notable mentions of Klaus Schulze collaborations would be the LP "Galaxy, My Dear" by J. Baffo Banfi and Robert Schroeder's entire album Harmonic Ascendant which were both produced by K.S.

See also A History Of Electronic Music

© copyright Malcolm Smith 2009-06-07 - last updated 2011-01-16 - links verified 2009-06-07