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Concert Report: Klaus Schulze & Lisa Gerrard & Solar Moon System

img  Tobias

As I walk up to the Schillertheater, fighting my way through whispering  clouds of merchants waving tickets at me, the choice of location seems increasingly apt for the occasion. Klaus Schulze has performed in anything from rock clubs to churches, so playing at a theatre is a logical consequence  and promises that spinetingling sensation of witnessing something truly unique and out of the ordinary. On the inside, this positive premonition is reinforced by the luxurious foyer, elegantly draped along the walls of the actual concert hall as well as the spacious lightfilled cafe on the first floor. There is a lot of embracing, hugging and handshaking being done – it has taken long for fans to be able to see Schulze in action again and now the day has come, they are celebrating the occasion like schoolboys on their first night out.

Before their hero starts up his electric fortress, local act Solar Moon System have been granted the difficult job of warming up a crowd which is anything but in need of warming up. In their backs, the red and yellow LEDs of giant racks filled with Synths and Samplers are already flashing enticingly in unintelligable morse code, as the band launches their concoction of deep lounge moods, slowburning grooves, nocturnal trumpet solos and a cornucopia of microtonal sound effects. Solar Moon System have already collaborated with Schulze on the latter's massive 10CD box „Contemporary Works“ and been associated with the Neo-Krautrock movement, but tonight's performance rather shows them to be something of a cosmic smooth jazz band, whose music marks time on the surface while sizzling with tension and constantly changing details underneath. Classic songwriting and soulful crooning are at the heart of their performance, which may possibly yield a stronger impression in an intimate and sweaty night club than a sizeable hall as this one – but nonetheless manages to open up bright bridges into the night.

There is a short break and after everyone has taken their seat again, the curtain is raised, revealing Schulze behind his armada of beloved Synthesizers. Moved by the intensity of the welcoming cheers and hollers, he jumps from his seat like a young boy, throwing kisses and showering the  room with a smile that could light up the entire city. Then, however, the spots are dimmed down just a little more and you can see a transition taking place. As the machines start talking in tongues, creating brushwoods of voices and alien echoes, Schulze's facial expressions change from ecstacy to complete introversion and silent passion. Carefully, he sends tender chords through this sonic jungle, staying well behind a veil of amorphous allusions and abstractions.

On his latest three albums, Schulze has gradually worked his way towards a new script which succesfully synthesizes elements from different periods of a long career. Vocal and instrumental samples of his 90s phase are blended with the magnetic sequencing of his classic mid-70s era and the stoic drum computer metrums of his all too often under-rated 80s epics. Boundless ambition has made way for the borderless joy of dancing on the wings of gentle grooves and the Coltraine'ean stream of endless solos has been replaced by a newly found melodic minimalism which relies on just the right note at just the right time. When the sequences finally start floating in, this fresh style blossoms up like a flower, the pearly melodies shimmering and shining like beams of laserlight. Everything pulses and undulates, the music moves from the upper register down to pumping bass patterns and back again and Schulze only adds occasional harmonies to support the mellow momentum of his machines.

Just like on some of his records, however. he is unafraid of quickly withdrawing this drugging pulsation from his audience again, launching into a long soundscape section built on the skilfull recombination and variation of an ethereal „Agnus Dei“ sample. Schulze's chord schemes have rarely been this inventive, leisurely quoting earlier compositions and aiming at new borders all the same. Just as impulsively as he faded out the beats, they are back in again, however, and he streamlines the two sections into a triumphant finale. It only goes to proove that he has come to the conclusion that it is not mantric repetition and subtle transitions that decide upon the effectivity of his music, but the psychoactive confusion of expectations as well as the surreal juxtaposition of rhythmical parts and completely timedefying sections.

After yet another short interlude and a stroll past the merchandising stand where two sales girls are making Klaus Schulze tshirts look surprisingly sexy, Schulze presses play on one of his Moogs and initiates a powerful bass sequence. Percolating and pumping, it fills every crevice of the Schillertheater and introduces the arrival of Lisa Gerrard who enters the stage from the left side in a long, golden dress. Operating in complete stillness and from behind the safe shelter of  her microphone, she rams through a rollercoaster ride of mediaeval chants, jazz scat, opera-style grandezza and a plethora of traditional ethnic styles supported by nothing but expressive hand- and arm movements. Everything is improvisation here, but her interaction with Schulze seems carefully planned. Especially in their seminal second piece of the night, it is the exactness of the dramaturgy and the minutely measured balance of their respective timbres, which carries these epic tracks despite a lack of obvious references.

Even more than on CD, the duo continuously and playfully exchanges themes, making immediate use of the input of their partner to arrive at unexpected syntheses. And just as on „Fairscape“, Schulze remains in a supportive function, accompanying his self-declared muse with seemingly endless chord cycles, rolling beats, electrifying metallic beats and even amorphous sheets of raw sound. Gerrard, on the other hand, clearly appreciates the challenging sounds and motives he throws at her, sometimes approaching a point of voluminous ecstacy and angry, theatrical madness.

As closely synchronised as their meeting may be, there is still space for suprises. On the encore, Schulze suddenly finds himself playing nothing but a sampled classical Guitar, taking it from lonely chords and truncated melodies to a rapidly accelerating flamenco sequence. When they push their duel towards a folkloristic climax, the bewildered smile on Gerrard's face reveals this to be anything but a pre-planned event.

Here, the true essence of the evening comes to the fore: Klaus Schulze's and Lisa Gerrard's complex compositions are synthetic Lieder, their concert a future-vision of what a „classical“ recital could look like in the 22nd century. It is an open and expandable concept, too: Behind a ballet of familiar elements looms the prospect of a new form of electro-vocal expression.

By Tobias Fischer

Picture by Marius Burcea

Homepage: Klaus Schulze
Homepage: Lisa Gerrard
Homepage: Synthetic Symphony Records

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