Klaus Schulze—
Blackdance


Released 1974 on Brain
The Seth Man, April 2022ce
By 1974, Klaus Schulze had accomplished much. First, he had served apprenticeship as a consistent and rhythmically pummeling drummer for a trio of the most experimental power trios of the time in Berlin, West Germany: Psy Free (1967-1969), Tangerine Dream (1970), and Ash Ra Tempel (1971 and 1973). Secondly, as a solo artist in 1972 (during his year-long layover from Ash Ra Tempel) he recorded and released his first solo album, IRRLICHT. Thirdly, he engaged in a flurry of activity in 1973 when, not only appearing on a pair of albums for Ohr Records’ Kosmische Musik imprint (Sergius Golowin’s LORD KRISHNA VON GOLKA and Walter Wegmuller’s immense double album, TAROT) he also released his second solo album, CYBORG (a double LP, no less) for the label. Finally, at the same time, further recordings of his electronic keyboards would appear throughout five separate Cosmic Jokers albums. Yes, the 27 year old, one-time Klaus-vierkanal-Schulze (‘Klaus-four channel-Schulze’) was now ready to part ways with the Kosmische Musik label and embark full-time with his own vision after passing through these four stages of development as both a musician and composer.

Schulze’s solo albums would run from intensity to intensity while being of such compositional singularities that no two albums would sound truly alike. Although parallels could be drawn between IRRLICHT and CYBORG, their only sonic connection were in the way they were both impenetrably minimal and featured drones of such weight that entire continents could rest upon them as they made space stand still while elongating the vertical direction of time as it rested on a pin. (In all fairness, IRRLICHT featured a recording of an orchestra while CYBORG only sounded like one -- and a huge, glacial and unmoving one, at that.)

Oh, let the headfuckery commence, for on his first post-Cosmic Jokers solo release an entirely different Schulze was at the controls. As close to the sensation of weightlessly falling into hypnagogia (the name for the transitional state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep), BLACKDANCE would (as usual) be atypical of everything Schulze had, or would, commit to album: the un-ending pulsations and unerring rhythms that poured into unswerving tunnel visions that fashioned themselves into a tightly and deftly woven album. Having shifted from drumming to keyboards since the time of his period with Ash Ra Tempel, the multiple instrumental talents of Schulze would return on BLACKDANCE with an emphasis on driving, consistent drums and percussion.

The results were as though a sonic three-dimensional grid was interspersed with shifting textures within parallel tensions of sonic drift and swell and nowhere is this more apparent than with the opening 17 minute trance-out, “Ways Of Change.” Here, several spires of drones align within the silence and then slowly overlap. An acoustic guitar interlude appears, soon rising in the mix out from under the blanketing drones in quiet iridescence. For some time it persists until the fuse of a quiet momentum is lit and Schulze heads from the acoustic off ramp into the four lane highway of insistent drumming and congas that beat down a path amid the ever-surging Farfisa organ overlays. Twittering-scrawl pitch squiggles as hand percussion beats out continuously against strands of electronic organ and synthesizer lines that twist in the wind. An organ drone repeats, continues and then splits off in all directions into a pressurised echo chamber until the strands of various notes which at once were random now fall all together into sequence. Where once repetitive ribbons constantly fell in and out of phase, are now co-joined into a compassionate melody against the relentless rhythm. At some later point, all drumming and percussion falls away to leave a huge space for electronic squiggles to increase, expand and echo into infinite space as if echoed clouds of stardust expand and contract in interstellar space. Congas and percussion do reappear for a final time, just before everything is swept into a coda of ever-fading electronic organ and cosmic squiggles.

As if the slipstream of this tightly gridded network, the quietude of “Some Velvet Phasing” arrives to close out side one with becalmed, phased electronics that run diffused as late day shadows, gently pulsating with all the gossamer grace of aurora borealis. Drifting effortlessly in eddying waves, it runs quietly as though a sonic afterimage of the preceding track.

Side two is entirely taken up with the 20 minute rhythmic pulsations of “Voices Of Syn.” So named for the introductory wordless invocations of Ernst Walter Siemon, his keening arias reverberate in cathedral-sized echo until taken over by percussion clicking off in metronomic precision with the exact rhythm and timbre of a 2016 Nissan Versa directional turn signal. Waves of electronic harmonic drones waft above and beyond but nothing keeps the insistent rhythmic generations from its course. A bass pulse throb begins to assemble in sequential harmony until it, along with the rhythm it had followed so closely, has altogether passed into silence, leaving behind only the trails of electronic organ. But as effortlessly as it had disappeared, so it has reappeared, returning at increasing magnitude and blooming with full hypnotic pulsations. Several millennia later, the rhythm has now descended into ever sinking puddles in dank distances, waved away by several passes of Schulze’s magic wand, weaving throughout the firmament and into the universe a final electronic wink.