[Review] Klaus Schulze: Picture Music (1975)

One of the quieter of the classic Schulze albums, or the Linus of the lot.

Kronomyth 4.0: For H to He, Who Was Framed.

This was the first Klaus Schulze album that I owned. A single-elpee version of Audentity was the second. A third addition to the collection was a long time in coming because, honestly, two albums of expensive, imported synthesizer noodling seemed plenty as a teenager. It wasn’t until years later that I came to appreciate the music of Klaus Schulze—roughly, about twice the time it took me to appreciate the fact that all wine didn’t taste like diluted vinegar. Today, I understand that not all Klaus Schulze music sounds like improvisational synthesizer pieces recorded by a German drummer who probably never took a piano lesson in his life.

Picture Music, then, is probably as good a place as any to start in understanding how to appreciate the music of Klaus Schulze. First, you’ll want to come to this music with an open mind. Should you need some chemical assistance to open it, have at it. Next, forget about doing anything for the next forty minutes. If you don’t pay full attention to Schulze’s sounds, you’ll forget you’re even listening to music. Thirdly, stop comparing his music to Tangerine Dream. They were a group of painters where Schulze is a lone sculptor, shaping sounds carefully over the course of twenty-plus minutes.

With those things in mind, the “classic” period of Klaus Schulze (the Seventies to the rest of you) is quite enjoyable. For its part in the spectrum of albums from Irrlicht to Dune, Picture Music presents the symphonic Totem and the more rock/funk-oriented Mental Door. Later compact reissues added an introspective third track, “C’est pas la même chose.” Listening to both tracks on headphones, you’ll experience these as Schulze himself must have as he created and edited this music. I was amazed, for example, how much thought went into the music of “Totem.” And, yes, how little thought went into the music of “Mental Door.” Not that one is better than the other, only more intentional.

Therein, I suppose, lies the paradox of Klaus Schulze. On the one hand, there’s too much artistry in the way he arranges sounds not to appreciate the artist behind it. On the other hand, he seems smitten by the creative process at the cost of some prudent editing and polishing. Picture Music is one of the quieter of the classic Schulze albums, and you may need a bit of time to warm up to it, but warm up to it you will, contrary to what those part-time pundits at All Music will tell you. (I am so sorry for that review.)

Original elpee version

A1. Totem (23:45)
B1. Mental Door (23:00)

CD reissue bonus track
3. C’est Pas la Même Chose (33:00)

All compositions by Klaus Schulze.

The Players

Klaus Schulze (EMS synthesizer VCS 3, ARP synthesizer Odyssee, ARP synthesizer 2600, Farfisa professional duo organ). Produced by Klaus Schulze.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in January 1975 in Germany (Brain, brain 1067).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1976 in Germany and the Netherlands (Ariola, 27583XAT).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in France (Isadora, 9007) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in 1980 (Gramavision, 18-7021).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (Spalax, LP 14123).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in 1986 in France (AVI, A.V.I. CD 2003).
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in 1995 in France (Spalax, 14923).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc on July 2, 1996 in the UK (Thunderbolt, CDTB 098) and on December 16, 1996 in the US (Magnum America, MACD 66).
  8. Re-packaged with Body Love on 2-for-1 2CD on June 8, 1999 in the EEC (Thunderbolt, CDTBT 003).
  9. Re-released on expanded compact disc on April 5, 2005 in the US (Inside Out, 30407) with one bonus track.
  10. Re-issued on expanded compact disc in 2016 in Germany (MIG, MIG01502) with one bonus track.

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