Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Günter Schickert—
Kinder In Der Wildnis


Released 2013 on Bureau B
The Seth Man, January 2019ce
“Kinder In Der Wildnis” was Günter Schickert’s third solo album, culled from material recorded 1981-1983 and released in 1983 on cassette by the British experimental label, YHR Tapes. Preceded by his self-released debut, “Samtvogel” (reissued on Brain in 1975) and “Überfällig” on Sky Records (1979), “Kinder In Der Wildnis” is in contrast the most visceral of the three. It featuring the strongest display of immediacy in both arrangements and playing: ranging from unremittingly abrasive to trance-like rotational orbits but at all times, it’s Schickert at his (then) most evolved and driven by his own process. (It’s also his first album not to feature a song with ‘Apricot Brandy’ in the title, so who knows: perhaps he was either feeling naturally energised, or somebody hipped him to the Rhinoceros album on Elektra.)

The title translates into English as “Children In The Wilderness,” which would turn out to be prophetic, as these recordings were by and large crying unheard in a wilderness of their own for decades. Then again, threading eight exercises of repetitive guitar patterning together with near-continuous artificial head stereo field recordings of New Year’s celebrations in the open air and then releasing the proceedings on a limited edition cassette was nobody’s idea of setting the world on fire, especially in 1983. But now, as then, it’s a work of fucking genius.

“Kinder In Der Wildnis” has undergone many transmutation since its first release on cassette. Not only the sleeve art, but parts of the album had to be entirely reassembled by Schickert from the rough mixes after segments were erased by a contributing musician. (As indicated in the liner notes, the reissue on Bureau B applied painstaking restoration of the master tapes through the work of a skilled WDR engineer.) On top of that, sets of bonus tracks were either added, removed, or replaced at the tail end of the album. Bureau B continued the tradition by appending two new previously unheard bonus tracks. However, their tight rhythms, overall polished sheen and eighties urban stiffness remain at odds with the far more timeless spirit and feel of the rest of the album. Worst of all, the stunning finale title track, “Kinder In Der Wildnis” cuts off so abruptly and directly into the first bonus track that it blows the vibe of the original album somewhat. Although interesting exercises in Schickert’s forays into newer sounds, they’re somewhat far afield of the layered, textured investigations that comprise “Kinder In Der Wildnis.”

It’s important to note that this album is a peak headphone experience (WAV not MP3). There is superior use of separation that encourages the patterns forward as they form, due to Schickert mixing the album utilising the Artificial Head Stereo Sound system and especially applied during the field recordings made in Kreuzberg, an isolated southern pocket of West Berlin, on New Year's Eve 1980. (These were augmented with further recordings made on New Year's Eve 1990, several weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which increased the high spirited ambience of the partygoers exponentially. Not to mention the amount of fireworks.)

The album begins with “Höllentanz” (“Hell Dance.”) With the constant accompaniment of distant fireworks and birdsong, its sludgy, crooked rhythmic foundations are bedecked with loose, chiming guitar strikes, clattering drums, stuttering hi-hat hits, and Chris Karrer-like Deutsch Dylan vox that all invoke elements of Amon Düül 2’s “Eye Shaking King” -- only played at a third of the speed and without the screaming or guitar solos. Schickert’s echoed vocals reiterate over the steady backing, soon splitting off into several overdubs of spoken or whispered innuendos. It threatens to crumble for the duration of the song but when it finally does, it leaves Schickert’s trumpet alone to play only in accenting trails.

Following up is the near nine-minute odyssey of apocalypse that is “Rabe In Der Nacht.” Translated into English as “Raven In The Night,” birdsong FXs have carried over into the song alongside Schickert’s own eerily authentic raven croaks behind an ongoing three-ply guitar interplay. An additional slide guitar line burns through with sustain created by echo, fuzz and distortion, operating more like a pneumatic power sander that cleanses the interior of your skull when heard on headphones. The stereo separation on this track is especially effective, as Schickert randomly calls and responds from left to right while the thicket of guitars continue and continue onwards. Some lines fall away, some continue with their looping, but all are conjoined by a singular thrust forward as they continue burrowing through space and time with all the relentless endurance of wild horses galloping across endless plains. By the time Schickert ends it with a manic “Ja, ja, ja, ja, rabe, rabe!” you’ve already been lulled into its addictive irregularities.

After a false start of drums playing the shortest rumba in the world, the echo/fuzz/distortion guitar burrowing is now phased to hell and continues at its heaviest with “Es Ist Schon Kurz Vor 12” (“It Is Already Before 12”). Soon, a sweet slide guitar enters, floating effortlessly above the hectically phased main riff. Schickert appears to brusquely vamp vocally, then falls away and yet that burrowing riff continues, alongside the slide when another slide guitar joins in to create a manic mental scribbling between your ears that somehow also holds still simultaneously. Fireworks intercede and start exploding before all the guitars cease fire and once they do, only the fireworks and ambient conversations ensue until fade out.

Originally the first song on Side B of the cassette, here it’s track 4 and called “Gitarre Wahnsinn” (“Guitar Madness”). Opening with a super phased, fuzz guitar line that pitch shifts suddenly and slowly into third gear...and stays there. Once the main rhythmic patterning is established, it becomes peppered with the sound of fireworks exploding in the distance, additional guitar lines and finally: a guitar solo of great dexterity and sustain that will eventually fade out, leaving behind only the sound of more fireworks and the noises of celebrating Berliners.

Before you know it, another crossfade has already happened into the beautifully sculpted and undulating realms of “Suleika.” Whether inspired by a poem by Goethe, a piece by Schubert based on the poem by Goethe (which may actually have been written by his muse, Marianne von Willemer), or just a female Arabic name, what “Suleika” definitely is, for the entirety of its diaphanous play, is a floating, trancelike instrumental with hints of Arabesques being draw in the air in several rotating dimensions...and into your mind. (Actually, it’s not completely an instrumental if you count Schickert’s sleepwalking intonation of the name at the end. Which is easy to miss once you slip inside of its thrall...especially when listening through the cans.)

Dumb drums bang out a sub-Strangeloves pattern against yet even more recordings of fireworks, laughter, and general whooping up a storm during the brief “Schwarz voll Weiss” (“Black Full White.”) Scihckert intones both echoed vocals and quiet whispering, both of which cut out for more buzzbombs exploding while people converse and whoop it up. This continues into the becalmed “7/5,” which features two guitar lines quietly braiding extensions together even as Schickert’s trumpet frills blow mournfully. The moodiest piece on the album, the guitars fall away to leave Schickert’s phased trumpet to unfurl its poignancy alone...

...Which is a perfect set up for the final track. For as the ever-continuing fireworks still blow up patterns in the sky, Schickert’s doing the same thing on earth with several guitars in the stunning conclusion that is the title track, “Kinder in Der Wildnis.” Steady drums fire up at oil derrick pump speed and accuracy while all else goes for broke: it’s like half of 1971 Hawkwind left standing and playing at the wrong speed except for Nik Turner’s parping (here exhibited by Schickert’s trumpeting) while amassed electric guitars tunnel and strum for all its worth against Schickert’s madly echoed vocals. The fireworks have increased in magnitude and closing in louder and louder while Schickert kicks up, kicks ass, and kicks out the jams on this burnout. Did I mention it sounds great on headphones? Well, the entire album does but this track even more so because there’s something funny yet terrifying beautiful about Schickert’s four year old daughter’s appearance on vocals -- excitedly shouting a repeating chorus through Echoplex. Hey, since Daddy’s whooping it up, it only encourages her excitement.

It’s a rave up, a carve up, and it’ll elevate thy spirits skyward. Guaranteed.


Special thanks to Julian, Dorian & Avalon Cope for shining a light on the opening track of this album during the 2018 SydArthur Festival, and to Holy McGrail for sending me a copy of the album in the first place.