[Review] Klaus Schulze: Black Dance (1974)

An interesting set of stationary pieces featuring acoustic guitar and operatic voice.

Kronomyth 3.0: Siemon says, Schulze plays.

Around this time, Tangerine Dream had begun to incorporate linear development into their songs. With TD, there was a sense of forward movement, whether you were tunneling into a mechanical brain or venturing further into space. By contrast, the music of Klaus Schulze locks you into a sound chamber. Once you’re in, the sounds shift slightly and wash repeatedly over you in waves. Sometimes, it feels as though you’re standing in a field of electrical energy. At other times, it’s like sitting in a large cathedral of sound where the notes echo and dissolve into fading embers. You’re not going anywhere but, strangely, you don’t feel like going anywhere else.

Recorded during a fertile period for Schulze, Black Dance may not have the shocking presence of an Atem or Phaedra, yet it’s hardly a case of the composer standing still. On Ways of Changes, which prominently features acoustic guitar and percussion, Schulze is consciously expanding his palette of sound. Even moreso Voices of Syn, which features opera singer Ernst Walter Siemon in what could be regarded as plainchant and polyphony for the electronic age. Schulze’s music has always had elements of the sacred (or profane, depending on your viewpoint), and it’s tempting to view him as a computer-cantor presiding over his own musical masses.

Ironically for an album called Black Dance, there is nothing dark or dance-like in the music. (His titles have always had more to do with the album’s artwork than the album’s music.) It’s actually a soothing album, especially the piece Some Velvet Phasing. The songs begin gently, end softly and generally lack the agitation sometimes found under the surface of Schulze’s music. I suppose you could hear the singing of Siemon as agitated, although I hear it as more of a droning cello. The fact that no lyrics are provided suggest that his voice is simply another instrument.

The early albums by Klaus Schulze are each interesting and, while similar in scope and effect, employ a unique mix of sounds. In a sense, his career has been one of doing the same thing, differently. Cyborg is the more substantive work, Irrlicht the more important as an opening statement, but Black Dance still has an important part to play in the continuing story of Klaus Schulze.

Original elpee version

A1. Ways of Changes (17:50)
A2. Some Velvet Phasing (8:30)
B1. Voices of Syn (22:30)

All compositions by Klaus Schulze.

CD reissue bonus tracks
4. Foreplay (10:33)
5. Synthies Have (no) Balls? (14:42)

The Players

Klaus Schulze (synthesizer, organ, piano, percussion, phase trumpet, 12-string acoustic guitar, orchestra) with Ernst Walter Siemon (bass-voice). Produced by Klaus Schulze; engineered by Helly Pohl, mixed by Klaus Schulze.

The Pictures

Cover-pictures by Urs Amann.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in August 1974* in Germany (Brain, brain 1051), the UK (Caroline, CA 2003), France (Virgin, XBLY 840.045) and Japan (Virgin, VIP-4173) with gatefold cover. (*First appeared in 8/10/74 issue of Melody Maker.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1981 in Germany (Brain, 0060.406).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Italy (Virgin, ORL 8176).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1984 in the UK (Virgin, OVED 23) with gatefold cover.
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in Germany (Brain, 833 129-2).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in the UK (Virgin, CDCA 2003).
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in 1992 (Caroline, CAROL-1806).
  7. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 2016 in Germany (MIG, MIG 01492 CD) with 2 bonus tracks.

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