Klaus Schulze—

Released 1975 on Brain
The Seth Man, April 2022ce
If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.
-Nikola Tesla

If one begins to think in those same terms, one could probably come closer to discerning the secrets of Klaus Schulze’s music. As one of the earliest solo synthesists in Rock, Schulze was already a pioneer in electronic music who would quantum jump with the release of his fifth album, TIMEWIND. Aided and abetted by the use of sequencers and additional synthesizers to refine his minimalism through his use of rhythm, repetition, and pulse, he created two elongated pieces of immersive beauty that were ambient but not soothing, industrial but not harsh, and existed in a weightless zone of avant-garde experimentation despite the fact it became a bestselling album in Europe and was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque of L’Académie Charles Cros in France. With its front sleeve featuring a surrealistic Urs Amann painting of winged humanoid figures in a doorway overlooking a ruined city on the edge of forever, the aridity of that desert (and deserted) landscape combined with its severe de Chirico perspective and checkerboard floor [1] reflect the contrast of Schulze’s organic improvisations upon the predetermined sequenced patterns that reported from his electronic synthesized outputs. (This mechanical/organic distinction was further represented by Schulze’s handwritten notes on architectural paper reproduced on TIMEWIND’s back sleeve.)

With its arid and detached flurries of synthesized cloud banks of various magnitudes which gather and whisk away in washes of white noise, gridded upon a strict plane heading out to an ever-reaching vanishing point, TIMEWIND is also a glacial work. It is massive, cold, extremely slow-moving and comprised of two unyielding realisations that would take an eternity to melt. The first of which, “Bayreuth Return,” opens the album with the winds of time blowing cold as the kneading of one’s subconscious into a loaf of singular sensation commences and then continues for the next half an hour. The subtle gradation of tones and shade are so infinitesimal as to render this passage of 30 minutes as an eternity -- or taking the moment of now, inducing it into paralysis, and then allowing it to blossom as a near-permanent state. Schulze’s live-in-the-studio improvisations continue over the patterning of synthesized sequences [2] as tiny petals alight on quiet pools, their ripples expanding gently outward. Nudging its way through time with industrious rhythms, soothing drones and their detailed fitting into breathtaking latticework as wave forms recede and approach simultaneously in a multi-dimensional moiré pattern, it can truly be said that this is cosmic music at its most granular and most paralysis-inducing. Twenty minutes into “Bayreuth Return,” the sequencer gets caught in a loop, frees up, then allows itself to miniaturise into an emission of twinkling stars amid gusts of white noise. A melancholy melody enters, recalling several dozen future sad overcast weekend afternoons listening to progressive Rock albums. Replacing this are skittering electronics that begin to compete with the ever-increasing sequencing, which is now building its ping-ponging trance until a startling disturbance levels all into a jarring silence.

Side two, “Wahnfried 1883,” is nearly as extended as its Wagnerian-provenanced twin on the flipside but it is far more relaxed a brainstorm. As indicated by its title, ‘wahnfried,’ is a term in German that means ‘peace from delusion and/or madness,’ and was the name which composer Richard Wagner bestowed upon his villa in Bayreuth, where he was eventually laid to rest in 1883. Multi-tracked layers of electric organ, Synthi-A, and other keyboards create sustained drones that continue whilst slightly altering all the time as though walking in place while the surrounding area slightly changes and alters in a sonic version of an M.C. Escher staircase. While silently skating the ceiling of one’s mind, traversing leitmotivs and withstanding icy blasts of drones, the relentless pulsation of sequencer lines and slowly shifting panels of pink and white noise all create an ever-building flurry whose movement is imperceptible. By journey’s end, so many layers have been quietly appearing that what has amassed is a raging snowstorm upon frozen seas where sky, sea and air are all indistinguishable and interchangeable. It’s a dense and infinite maelstrom, constantly circling like a Shepard’s Tone, a circle of fifths (or maybe it’s the ever building tape echo?) until the piece starts to chaotically shudder, lose balance and eventually -- held back only by resounding tape echo -- disappears within supernova.

Which, in other words, describe certain forms not dissimilar to...energy, frequency and vibration.

-Dedicated to the memory of Klaus Schulze.

  1. This motif was also previously incorporated on the front cover of JOIN INN (1973), the final album Schulze appeared on as a member of Ash Ra Tempel, as well as a promotional portrait of a seated and ciggie-smoking Schulze used by Virgin Records in 1974.
  2. These signals were produced on Schulze’s ARP 2600 synthesizer then fed into a prototype Synthanorma analog sequencer. It was only weeks prior to the TIMEWIND sessions that this prototype was purchased by Schulze at a Frankfurt music fair directly from its developers, Dirk Mattern and Hajo Wichers. One more fascinating thing about Klaus Schulze is how quickly he took to and mastered brand new equipment and with it, produced music that was so original and so damn singular.