Scientists believe that, between the big bang and the creation of the worlds, matter existed in a soup-like plasma state. Electronic Meditation is its musical equivalent: a primordial soup of sound that would coalesce over time into Zeit, Atem, Phaedra. Taking their cue from the early noise collages of Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream filters them through the classical structure (or non-structure, depending on how you see these things) of musique concrete to create a post-modern tone poem. The individual sections of Electronic Meditation morph together into one long piece featuring the same musical (?) elements including groaning cellos, electric guitars (plucked, scratched and sometimes played), organs, crashing drums, flutes and even broken glass. In some ways, hearing this album is like discovering that the beacon of oddness from “Instellar Overdrive” is actually a star with its own solar system. There will be a tendency on the part of listeners at first to mistake Electronic Meditation as an experiment of accidents. It is, rather, chaos by design. The bass/cello, keyboards, guitars and drums are engaged in an alien dialogue from a shared manuscript. When order and calm emerge from chaos, as they do briefly during “Journey Through A Burning Brain” and “Ashes To Ashes,” a method to their madness also emerges. As a word of caution to later TD listeners, the album title is very misleading; there are no synthesizers or electronic instruments featured on the recording, and the music is anything but meditative. Instead, Tangerine Dream has recorded an orgy of sounds in a daunting and frightening musical opus.
Progrography: Listening to music so you don’t have to. Only I want you to listen to music. These reviews are, after all, only etchings of exotic animals from faraway places (and the occasional ubiquitous house sparrow). There are so many strange creatures ambling about in Klaus Schulze’s attic anyway that simply thrusting your hand into the dark gives good odds of getting bitten. With the mole-man on the cover, you must be thinking heavy gardening gloves, but Audentity is actually very good. Good in the sense that it holds up to Tangerine Dream, and there’s only the one road into town. There are, of course, different cover versions, even a different double-elpee version of Audentity, but we’re sticking with the single today. With a few guests, Klaus Schulze kicks up some cosmic dust with his improbable, musical contraptions. I always think of Dali’s elephants with Schulze because they seem so wobbly at first glance but soon build up to an (almost) graceful gait that reveals a method to their absurd mechanical construction. That describes “Tango – Saty” and “Opheylissem.” In contrast, “Amourage” is a haunting spacescape (yes, I cringe every time I write the word “haunting”) and the side-long “Spielglocken” a cross between TD and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. However, a word of warning for the uninitiated: Schulze sometimes builds his worlds with tinkertoys, which can sound like random nonsense, and in long stretches this stuff is trance-inducing. I actually had to get up during “Opheylissem” to make sure the record wasn’t skipping. It wasn’t. Trust me, there are times when you won’t know the difference. So for the final etching: a pair of perverse pachyderms, one lunar sea and a trance encounter that lasts for twenty minutes. Enjoy.
I’m in one of my “Klaus Schulze is a musical genius” moods, which are admittedly less frequent than my “Edgar Froese is a genius” moods, though more frequent than my “Alberto Gonzalez probably isn’t two small demons in a rented skinsuit moving his body through a complex series of levers and pulleys” moods. Mind you, I’ve resisted the impulse to call Schulze a genius in the past. His works have always held at least one fatal flaw, which my cynical intellect hammers away at until the whole thing collapses. (Dreams initially shared this fate; the vocal section at the end of “Klaustrophony” is terrible.) But in listening to Dreams more recently, I’m struck by the organization of it all. There are too many musical alignments here to chalk it up to serendipity. The headslap moment for me was “Dreams.” This is probably my favorite piece of music from Schulze; it sounds like a symphony of stars tuning their cosmic instruments. It occurred to me then how Schulze had controlled the pacing of the four pieces on Dreams, achieving a Largo effect with this section that balanced the faster pieces around it. Unlike traditional classical composers, Schulze doesn’t weave a single musical theme through his movements. Instead, he introduces a central pattern (a radial point, if you will) and then extrapolates the movement from it. Thus Schulze is something of a musimatician. Patterns and melodies move in tangential, kaleidoscopic shifts; what’s developed is less a theme than a geometric theorem. Since none of that helps describe the music, I’ll tell you that Dreams sounds like a notier Tangram. By “notier” I mean that Schulze is more prone to use flashy keyboard flourishes and crowd patterns close to one another. Dreams is also more clearly patterned on a traditional four-movement symphony than TD’s works: the brisk “A Classical move” followed by the more moderate “Five To Four,” the static and enigmatic “Dreams” and an allegretto finale that unfortunately ends in an annoying English chant. Over a career, Schulze’s works don’t lack for a consistency of vision but execution. Dreams is one of the best-executed and well-conceived electronic music albums I’ve heard from him, and I might start here if I were making a case for him as a first-tier composer.
Two long musical caravans that last nearly an hour, separated by an oasis of Oriental otherworld. “Decent Changes” is a journey across shifting sands; I’m always startled afresh at how quickly I lose my footing in the music, but Father Klaus takes care to synthesize new terra firma for our feet. “Percussion Planante” is similar in scope, sound and effect, without the abrupt changes and with a funkier vibe. Although Schulze long since gave up the drums in favor of synthesizers, his sense of rhythm has always remained strong. Here, it’s his kaleidoscopic vision of percussion–mixing, changing and creating new patterns from various percussive sounds–that shapes the music. It’s an unconventional approach to rhythm that, over time, becomes less a point of distraction and more a point of discovery, so that Schulze may be said to have a rhythmic language unique to himself. Behind, between, around the percussion is a mirage of voices, strings and piano that mixes the European stateliness of classical synthesizer music with Middle Eastern mystery. I pointed out earlier in an AMG review that Miditerranean Pads is a taxing listen, and I still stand by that (the rest of the review I gladly abandon as mediocre). My personal recommendation of it (and I do recommend it) is predicated on a patient and attentive listener who would follow Schulze through his constantly-shifting soundscapes. I’ve never listened to it without looking at my watch, but I keep coming back to it, if that tells you anything. The title track is Oriental in tone, ghostly in form, a mix of soprano voice and synthesizers that falls like a soft rain between two halves of a hot journey. (To my embarrassment on several levels, I referred to “Decent Changes” as a “lush musical landscape” on the aforementioned review, which I suspect is the result of lazy writing and letting the music breathe in a space through speakers versus hermetic headphones.)