Until I read the announcement of this release in late March, I honestly didn’t think there would be another Klaus Schulze studio album. Official but vague statements about serious health issues have lingered for a decade, lending nothing to any expectation of new Klaus Schulze material after his projects with Lisa Gerrard. His generation has taken some serious hits in recent years – Conrad Schnitzler, Dieter Moebius and Edgar Froese – and at this point Klaus Schulze is (along with Hans-Joachim Roedelius) a treasured survivor of a hugely influential and resonant era of experimental electronics. For his last studio work as a non-collaborative solo artist, you have to go back to the excellent late bloomers MOONLAKE (’05) and KONTINUUM (‘07). Subsequent to this was a series of live and studio releases with Lisa Gerrard, a collaboration that looked good on paper but mostly produced tiresome results.
Coinciding with his retirement from live work, BIG IN JAPAN: LIVE IN TOKYO 2010 featured a wonderful new interpretation of CRYSTAL LAKE from 1977’s MIRAGE, demonstrating the endurance of a sublime mastery despite the generally unnecessary length of the release. And unnecessary length has often been the impenetrable aspect of Schulze’s output – When the recordings were designed for vinyl, they were restrained by mechanics and practicalities – Such shackles are long gone and… well… things have occasionally gotten a little indulgent.
SILHOUETTES is the forty-third album by Klaus Schulze and has very much the feel of a twilight record – subtle in its atmosphere, sequencing, production and intoxication – If you want more that subtle, you definitely won’t find it here.
The title track SHILOUETTES is very much a classic KS build – slow lush progression of chords with that icy undulating layer leaking across the surface the track. Structurally, it’s probably nothing alien to any one of his mid to late 1970’s releases, but with contemporary technology the aesthetic is very different. Just after the 9-minute mark the first sequences bubble up, countering each other with something instantly recognisable as they weave towards the end of the track. At 22:07, DER LANGE BLICK ZURÜCK (The Long Look Back) is the endurance test of the record. It verges on audio wallpaper, a seamless atmosphere of droning chords, but gradually spills over into a section of transitioning arpeggios. The track eventually arrives at a synthesized choral passage and circles back into the drones that kicked it all off. With a little patience, the sonic dividends are generous. Another long one, QUAE SIMPLEX (21:47), livens up the album a little and takes it somewhere slightly different. Straight into arpeggios, there’s an expectation that this is going to break the general sleeper mode of the album into something special – the best we get is what sounds like live drumming (although I couldn’t find any credits to confirm this). After DER LANGE BLICK ZURÜCK, it doesn’t necessarily justify its length. To round things off CHÂTEAUX FAITS DE VENT (Castles Made Of Wind) is comparatively a quick one, clocking in at 15:08. Unfortunately it does nothing I haven’t already heard on the album.
This is essentially a modern and very subdued take on Klaus Schulze’s brand of Berlin School electronics. There’s nothing here that strays off formula into samples, beats or dodgy tech experiments that characterised the many creative gaffes of his extensive career into the 80s and beyond. What we are left with is one man keeping it simple and judiciously creating based on what defines him. It feels safe compared with MOONLAKE and KONTINUUM and expresses no ambition to break new ground. So many electronic artists influenced by Schulze have taken his initial ideas to new and interesting heights but at this point most fans are probably just happy that this album even exists. A curiosity, but not a late masterpiece, and definitely not a starting point.