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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Klaus Schulze

Big in Japan

Review by Gary Hill

Apparently there is truth in advertising as Klaus Schulze is big in Japan. He might be virtually unknown in many parts of the world, but he’s released dozens of albums over the years. He was briefly a member of Tangerine Dream, and that kind of sound really permeates this release. It’s instrumental music that is mostly electronic. It’s also quite cool.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
The Crystal Returns

At over thirty eight minutes in length, this is a sedate and pretty piece that’s quite ambient. It doesn't really rise up for quite a while, remaining understated and pretty. It’s a bit like soundtrack music or electronic classical music. Around the 19 minute mark, though, some rhythmic elements enter and the cut turns a bit dramatic before shifting to purely rhythmic. Roughly a minute later melody returns and the cut reaches the most energetic movement so far. This powers into a keyboard solo with energy and power. It’s a bit like Kraftwerk with passion. Then, less than a minute later the rhythmic elements drop away. It still retains its energy. The rhythm rejoins later and we continue on this cool journey from there. It moves back out to more textural territory around the 27 minute mark. Synthesized voices are heard later, bringing a more potent classical texture to the piece. Around the 32 minute mark it gets more electronic energy. The rhythm returns around the 33 and a half minute mark. We get some killer keyboard soloing a couple minutes later.

Sequencers Are Beautiful

A little longer than the opening number, this, like everything on the set, is epic in proportion. It rises up with a noisy, yet understated, droning. At times it sounds like a brass instrument, at times like a siren. Melody emerges over the top with this weird droning serving almost as the pulse of the piece. Space sounds emerge briefly around the three minute mark. A couple minutes later percussion joins and the track moves into some cool new directions. It grows pretty organically from there. Then approaching the ten minute mark it drops way down and ambient modes take over. It gets dramatic in a rather symphonic way from there. It turns very mellow and pretty as it continues. Synthesized voices are added around the fifteen minute mark. They continue as the piece runs through a number of subtle alterations. It feels quite classical in nature through this section. Around 21 minutes in it gets a more dramatic flair added to it. It gets more rhythmically oriented later. As it continues like that it feels a bit like Tangerine Dream. There’s a definite groove to the piece. Around the 31 minute mark it drops back to more symphonic atmosphere. It gets dramatic, but remains textural. Then it drops way down for a time before becoming even more fully symphonic. Guitar is introduced around the 34 minute mark and takes the cut in new directions. It feels more like a folk music meets rock and world sound. Keys take a more dominant role later and the cut ends with a bit of noisy weirdness.

Disc 2
La Joyeuse Apocalypse

At over 46-minutes in length, this epic is the longest cut on the set. It starts dramatically, a bit like soundtrack music with synthesized voices leading the way. A bit before the four minute mark, noisier keyboards rise and move it into a more pure electronic direction. Then it drops to almost Hawkwind-like space. Percussion comes up in that motif, adding to that image. More classic electronic prog moves it out from there. As it continues to evolve Tangerine Dream is certainly a valid reference point. Of course, Kraftwerk also deserves a shout out. It takes on more of a rock element with guitar added to the mix later. As this continues to build I’m reminded of Mike Oldfield at times. It drops way down to atmospheric around the 22 minute mark. It fades down even further before rising up like  wave crashing against the shore. It works out to some rather noisy space rock inspired territory later that’s not all that far removed from Hawkwind, but resolves back out into more electronic sounds from there. Guitar comes in to move it forward and the cut works out to a more free form kind of ambient experimentation. Around the 27 minute mark it starts to rock out, but with an electronic and dramatic mode. It gets a cool groove going and calls to mind Tangerine Dream and Mike Oldfield again. Some killer soloing emerges over the top. Eventually it drops down to atmospheric keys that seem to wash gently against the beach. It works out from there by expanding and expounding on the musical concept.

Nippon Benefit

Synthesized voices and other keyboard sounds start this in ambient ways and it grows out from there. It shifts out to more Tangerine Dream like music. It drops way down to textural elements later. It never rises back up. This is not one of the most dynamic pieces here, but at less than fourteen and a half minutes in length, it’s also one of the shortest.

The Deductive Approach
At a mere twelve minutes and twelve seconds in length, “The Deductive Approach” is the shortest piece of the set. Noisy keyboards open this in a great way. Percussion rises up after a time and takes over. Then it moves out to a killer keyboard and drum groove. It runs sort of a straight line from there, but never gets old or boring. It drops back to more ambient modes near the end of the piece.
 
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