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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

KLAUS SCHULZE: Big Japan (2010)

Updated: Oct 3, 2021

Each composition is a minimalist symphony that Klaus dresses up with subtle changes

CD I 77:03

1 The Crystal Returns 38:03

2 Sequencers Are Beautiful 39:00

CD II 72:57

1 La Joyeuse Apocalypse 46:35

2 Nippon Benefit 14:10

3 The Deductive Approach 12:12

DVD 77:51

1 A Crystal Poem 34:12

2 Sequencers Are Beautiful 43:39

MIG 00412 2CD+DVD

(CD 227:51) (V.F.)

(Orchestral Berlin School)

I hesitated for a long time before writing about BIG IN JAPAN. Those who follow my reviews know that I hate all the commercialism that animates the excessive ambitions of those who manage the careers of the artists that the fans worship. In the field of EM, we can easily talk about Klaus Schulze and his numerous reissues, as well as Tangerine Dream and JeanMichel Jarre for their too numerous compilations and reissues. BIG IN JAPAN is one of the music items that Schulze's fans must get in 3 box sets in order to be able to hear and see everything from those great concerts held in Japan on March 20 and 21, 2010. The 1st edition is the Japanese one, released on September 22, 2010, on Captain Trip Records. Released in 500 copies, it sold for a lot of money and quickly became discontinued. It is a superb boxset containing an 80 pages booklet with the following titles on CD 1; A Crystal Poem and The Crystal Returns while CD 2 contains the titles La Joyeuse Apocalypse, Nippon Benefit and The Deductive Approach. By the way, the CD 2 contains the same titles for the 3 editions. The DVD contained A Crystal Poem and Sequencers Are Beautiful. This last track was not on the double-cd.

A second version was released a few weeks later. The European version landed in stores on November 26th on the MIG label. This edition is the one I will review. It is more or less the same as the Japanese edition, except that the CD 1 does not contain A Crystal Poem but rather Sequencers are Beautiful while the DVD contains A Crystal Poem and the complete version of Sequencers are Beautiful. So far, you follow me? And, finally, on April 17, 2011, the American version hit the North American market with MIG and included the same setlist as the European boxset, except for the DVD version which offers the complete CD 2. So, to get the full recordings (both visual and audio) of Klaus Schulze's two concerts in Japan, you have to get all 3 versions! This will not be an easy task because the Japanese version is already sold out. And after that, people say that it's the piracy that kills the music! And yet the story of BIG IN JAPAN is fabulous. A very big Japanese fan, Mr. Gen Jujita, invited him to perform 2 shows in Japan. To do so, he gathered a team that would build all the equipment and modules that KS used during his concerts in Europe in the majestic era of the 70's. The legendary German synthesist had only his toothbrush to bring, as everything was served to him on a golden bridge. And it's a very emotional and inspired Schulze that we will hear and see on these concerts. A Klaus Schulze who offered his first solo compositions since 2007, that is to say since the Kontinuum album, and who had the taste to go back in time and thus play with the fantasies of his host and fan.

We hear the first sparkling arpeggios of The Crystal Returns jumping after a soft mist sucked in and hummed by the choirs of his Roland synth. For this concert, Klaus Schulze agrees to touch up a jewel in his crown in the album Mirage (1977) and remodels a part of the superb Crystal Lake. This divine carousel of crystalline arpeggios which marries a perfect movement of ascent where the chords of glasses gambol and roll under fine synth layers and pulsing bass-line a little dramatic when the movement takes a little more extent. These first 12 minutes are magical. We let ourselves float in time and take by this minimalist flux which flows in our ears with the same bewitchment as in 1977 to pour towards a soft ambient passage around the 13th minute. The synth wings fly from their ambient layers on a soft oneiric movement, forgetting the momentums and solos of the original work. The Crystal Returns is the only track that is not included on one of the 3 DVDs, and it comes out of its musical torpor with some good percussions around the 19th minute. Percussions pounding on what becomes a progressive rock supported by a sequencer movement which makes ripple its nervous balls to throb feverishly on a good bass line. Schulze hammers his fictitious skins fiercely as he draws the ambiences with soft solos, coming closer to the those of Crystal Lake. Too long? Hardly! Because there is a sweet oscillation in the movement that subsides around the 28th minute with lonely synth breaths that extend their romantic effluvia to the celestial choirs that Schulze loves to sculpt. A short passage before the unbridled rhythm of the sequences resumes its rights and falls silent in a crashing spiral hum. With its heavy pulsating waves that roll in loops, the intro of Sequencers are Beautiful can seem annoying. An intro where we hear Schulze triturating a fictitious guitar to bring out iridescent layers and laments around the 4th minute. A step where superb percussions forge a curious rhythm of reggae and tribal style. A rhythm that will serve as a foundation for the structure of tracks such as La Joyeuse Apocalypseand The Deductive Approach. Silky, the synth spreads its layers and envelops this rhythm with dramatic layers of violin strings that tear a party vibe. Very musical, the sequences pound a hypnotic beat that gradually wears off to get lost in an astral haze where Klaus Schulze lets go layers upon layers and celestial choirs humming with their synth voices in a more serene musical phase. They sing under layers of violins. Under a structure sometimes suave, sometimes jerky and sometimes ambient on a long passage (perhaps too long) of almost 23 minutes before delicate sequences alternate and trace a pleasant melody that revives the percussions surges of the opening.

La Joyeuse Apocalypse is similar in many ways to Sequencers are Beautiful. If the intro is less aggressive for the ears and offers less eclectic variations, the beat is just as suave and warm with its undulating tribal sequences. A bewitching minimalist rhythm that is more constant with some variations in the sequences. It extends until the appearance of the guitar that Schulze manipulates with a metal blade in order to extract a universe of sounds as metallic as eclectic, slowing down the rhythm for a few moments. A brief cosmic phase follows with superb layers that evaporate over the chimerical chords of an acoustic guitar played on the Roland. And La Joyeuse Apocalypse finds refuge in soft spheres that remind us of the ambiences of In Blue. And the rhythm starts again. This time it is accompanied by layers of a light synth that lets its chords float like falling leaves. The synth solos fuse with tact. Solos that twist to this long semi-trance and semi-ambient rhythm, dressed of superb synth layers in the 2nd part. And quietly the sequences of La Joyeuse Apocalypse fade under the breaths of a dreamy synth that escapes its layers and astral choirs, guiding us to a well-deserved rest of the senses. Monastic and angelic choirs, Nippon Benefit starts with a waving synth choir. An element that the musician exploits profusely on BIG IN JAPAN, this time the choir melts into heavy orchestral arrangements, a testament to his infatuation with electronic operettas. The rhythm hardly pierces this voice membrane to offer sequences that alternate by zigzagging and dancing madly on a structure absent of rhythm but supported by good synth layers. An interesting structure because of its deviant movement but which will miss time to exploit this rather particular rhythmic. After an intro with disparate sounds that we find on Sequencers Are Beautiful and La Joyeuse Apocalypse, The Deductive Approach concludes this show at the antipodes with a delicate rhythmic slightly chaotic where the sequences jump under layers of ethereal mist. A synth that hangs its twisted and sharp solos at a bewitching pace.

Now the DVD! Well, it is very well done. We can see Klaus Schulze displaying his knowledge on a sober stage, in front of 3 big projector screens where bluish geometrical figures permute and merge according to his music. There is really nothing to go crazy about because sobriety is the key word here. The producers have never thought of adding any additional material, such as interviews, a making of and any other documents about the presentation of the 2 concerts. Nothing! Zip! Nada! So much for the fans' enjoyment! As far as the music is concerned, A Crystal Poem is very similar to The Crystal Returns and the version of Sequencers Are Beautiful is stretched by 4 minutes. But beyond the music, there is the performance of Klaus Schulze. It is a very inspired Schulze, more so than on the DVDs of his concerts with Lisa Gerrard, who has fun with his toys and who makes an astonishing demonstration of all the range of his instruments with multiple sounds whose excessiveness equals the absolute infinity. The DVDs of the Japanese and European editions present beautiful shots on a sober editing while the American version is more nervous, and I would say more audacious with close-ups and good effects and fades with more vivid and pastel colors on more vivid and psychedelic images scrolling on the screens. In this respect the version of La Joyeuse Apocalypse is far superior to Sequencers Are Beautiful. And I still don't understand why they didn't make a 3 CD with 2 DVD box? It would have been less expensive than having to buy all 3 boxes in order to own the complete set of these 2 concerts.

Lengths? There are some, because these are two concerts with titles that are very similar; The Crystal Returns and A Crystal Poem as well as Sequencers are Beautiful and La Joyeuse Apocalypse which have the same rhythmic structures and sequential approaches. One can also classify The Deductive Approach in this lot. But this is part of the Schulze process where each composition is a minimalist symphony that the German synthesist dresses up with subtle layers of ethereal synths and sweet solos while playing on impromptu rhythms. Not to mention that these lengths have that special character to the emotions that emerge from his very poetic and wandering spirit. As far as I am concerned, this box set allowed me to rediscover the charms of Mirage while flying over all the phases of Klaus Schulze in very intimate shots. I liked it! But I am a mega fan, but I believe that there is room for those who want to discover this enigmatic character because the music presents good variations on the same themes, but with variations marked enough to make a real difference. And the American edition is so much for a wider audience that all will find their account. In conclusion, I would like to underline the professionalism of the people from Cosmiccagibi who were able to detect anomalies on the Japanese pressing and had MIG correct them in order to stop the crackling on the title La Joyeuse Apocalypse. Hats off to Olivier, this is excellent work!

Sylvain Lupari (June 29th, 2011) *****

Available at MIG Music and Groove nl

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