Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Klaus Schulze - Mirage (1977)

Good evening, music lovers! It's very cold out and there is ice coating all the roads, so I am effectively confined to my apartment until the next thaw (most likely tomorrow morning, but that doesn't sound as dramatic.) Bearing that in mind, I thought it would appropriate to write a review of one of the iciest albums I have, Mirage by Klaus Schulze.

To quickly recap, when we last left Schulze he was drumming for Ash Ra Tempel and working with Tangerine Dream on their first album. I guess the latter made an impression on him, because he has spent the rest of his career crafting intricate, long form electronic works that have a lot in common with TD. Mirage is no exception.

While I've only sampled a fraction of his massive discography, and everything I've heard so far has been good, this stands out as a high point for Schulze. It is subtitled "an electronic winter landscape" and it sure sounds it. I still can't figure out what the title "Mirage" and the horribly dtaed seventies cover art have to do with the music though. The album is divided into two sides, "Velvet Voyage" and "Crystal Lake," each running nearly a half hour. The are similar in structure, opening with chilly synth atmospherics drifting over slow and gloomy bass lines. After ten minutes or so of build up, Schulze busts out the sequencers and we are treated to a coldly beautiful rhythmic ostinato that devlops throughout the rest of the piece. While Schulze uses the same formula for both tracks, the melodies are distinct and they each have their own personality.

All of the sounds Schulze manages to tease from his synths are cold and distant sounding. There is none of the warmth or friendliness of something like "Autobahn." In places, the music is reminiscient of the best parts of "Phaedra" by Tangerine Dream, but Schulze has a longer attention span and is willing to stick with a single idea for a really long time to see what develops. On other albums, this tendency has at times proved somewhat tedious, but the material is strong enough here that it never gets old.

The 2005 reissue adds a an additional twenty minute bonus track, but it feels superfluous and does little except dillute the tightly focussed original album.