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Klaus Schulze: Shadowlands

img  Tobias Fischer

Looking back, Klaus Schulze's collaboration with Lisa Gerrard was akin to an explosion of energy - recorded on just two afternoons but yielding two and a half hours of music, the ensuing Farscape would culminate in an international tour and several releases' worth of live footage. The success of the concerts and the medial attention of the releases notwithstanding, it would turn out to be a highly divisive phase, a pairing of artists whose talents, as one reviewer put it, in a way cancelled each other out rather than leading to a true fusion. Even some of those who actually enjoyed Farscape admitted that some of its most beguiling passages occurred when Gerrard withdrew from the picture, allowing the music to blossom and breathe on its own accord.

Shadowlands, a work very much composed and produced in the aftermath of the collaboration but published with a two-year-delay, suggests Schulze might secretly have agreed with that sentiment. Although Gerrard's voice still makes a few sporadic appearances, it is now tucked away in the back of the mix like a ghostly reminder, as if he were thinking of her while playing alone in his studio the night after she left. Compared to the extravagant, eccentric and at times outright pompous predecessor, everything here is quiet, introspective and subtle, the arrangements cloudy and unobtrusive, caught in the greyzone between waking and sleeping that has always defined classic Schulze. Thomas Kagermann is the main sidekick, adding free, orientally tinged vocal lines, flute and violin. But even his solos are more like a textural than a melodic element here, suggesting that their main function is not to add melody, but to reinforce the ambiance and maintain the mood of these pieces far beyond what one might typically consider feasible.

Growing from these tiny seeds are epically proportioned compositions with developments taking place at a slowed down, dream-like rate: The mere intro to "The Rhodes Violin" is a piece onto itself and it takes a full forty minutes before the hihats kick in. At the same time, this is not so much voracious exuberance, but the economy of a man who, into his fourth decade as a professional musician, knows exactly how thin or thick to stretch his materials. Schulze's "manager" Klaus-Dieter Müller once referred to him the "master of reduction" and lauded him for his restraint. This 'pure' Schulze he so enjoys has made a triumphant comeback on Shadowlands.

It may occasionally seem as though there were no one left in the studio at all, or as if, for the most part, the role of the composer were reduced to that of behind-the-scenes-wirepulling, holding the space and sustaining the flow. And yet, it is precisely within this almost absent-minded state that a fascinating paradox emerges: The more Schulze withdraws from his music, the clearer his vision becomes.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Klaus Schulze