KLAUS SCHULZE: Silhouettes (2018)
“Far from being that worse, Silhouettes portrays the most accurately possible the state of mind of a composer on his decline and who describes it beautifully”
1 Silhouettes 15:41 2 Der Lange Blick Zurück 22:07 3 Quae Simplex 21:47 4 Châteaux Faits De Vent 15:08 SPV 267202 CD
(CD/Spotify 75:02) (V.F.) (Ambient Beats, Berlin School)
Ah, that good old Klaus Schulze! Some 40 years after his majestic X, the maestro of EM comes back for another lap. We had been waiting for this SILHOUETTES since 2 or 3 years, but the fans of the living legend have rather contented themselves with a few reissues of the Contemporary Works series, an official bootleg of a sound quality below the average (Stars are Burning) and a double album highlighting Schulze's 70th birthday with only two unreleased tracks (Eternal - The 70th Birthday). A little more and it smelled the commercialism of Tangerine Dream! But back to this album which is not so much bad than that, unlike the vast majority of critics and observers of this musical genre. This last Schulze is very quiet. Quiet, but not superficial. We are dealing with a 70-year-old man who responds to an increasingly urgent request from his fans. And that's on this angle that I analyzed this album. I imagined a Schulze, worn by years and thousands of cigarettes, sitting behind his instruments and his console trying to offer an album that would go in the same direction as Shadowlands. It's close enough. But forget the drums, the adrenaline rush of the sequencer and even less the synth solos. SILHOUETTES is as beautiful as we can expect from a man of this age, even with his background and his immense skill. It's a calm album that is made in a relative peace of mind and which places exactly there where the maestro of EM should be a few years from a definitive retirement.
The effects of misty hoops which bang together and of waves with rough contours open the title-track. Layers of absent voices and synthesizer zests a little odd bring a sibylline depth to an introduction which eats the first 9 minutes of SILHOUETTES. Shadows of bass and intensity variances in the play of the layers try to infuse a rhythmic presence which evaporates rather quickly in this magma of waves and of stationary shadows. For a bit, and I would feel to be in the land of In Blue. Except that nothing comes out! Klaus seems to me alone in his apartments trying to create something, but everything seems to go around in circles ... Except that even a Schulze that goes around in circles can become captivating for the nostalgic essence. After a more intense passage in the crunching of the layers forged in aluminum, Silhouettes takes refuge beneath a bench of celestial songs. Prelude at a pace just as much static with a slow transition. An ambient rhythm where the sequencer multiplies its chords which roll like a nice waterfall and its jets of harmonious water. For a first first original piece of music since the beautiful Shadowlands, I remain on my appetite. And it's a little, very much even, the observation after several listenings of this album. Not that it's not good, but it lacks life. And it's exactly this image that I have of the Maestro that exempts me to write a bad criticism for what possibly be the last album of Klaus Schulze. A rough statement of course, but this album has been postponed so many times and the main explanations concerned Klaus' health issues. Hearsay denied by MIG offices. And each time, the some few information evoked reasons of health. Some spoke of cancer, others of severe back pain, while some said that Klaus Schulze was aging rather badly. And on the management side, it was the most complete silence. Nada! Just rumors! But let's go back to the music.
Der Lange Blick Zurück is a bit like the introductory title with a long intro blown in an approach where the enigmatic side flirts with a dreamlike vision. A chorus drawn from the skill of both entities overflies this lyrical opening where lays down also a thick cloud of layers weaved into white noises. A rhythmic structure hatches some 8 minutes later. Electronic castanets get infiltrate under this huge stratum of voices and of synth layers, drawing a spheroidal approach knotted of good percussive effects and loops formed of static noises. The bass drum adds a little dance effect. But that dance happens between our both ears! And like the title track, Der Lange Blick Zurück goes in a final as obscure as its introduction. Quae Simplex is really in pure Schulze mold, without the solos. The rhythm catches our ears from the start with a sequencer which makes shimmering its chords and whose harmonic loops take refuge in infinity. The structure goes up and down with its swarm of sequences which swirl delicately on the spot and unties fine spasmodic filaments. A real drum sounds a new rhythmic charge around the 7th minute, I love here the floating and anesthetic layers which try to plant an ambiospheric phase, bringing Quae Simplex in the territories of pure Schulze on drums and in the years 76 to 79 A big piece on this album! Châteaux Faits De Vent finishes this last opus of Klaus Schulze with an introduction as ambient, but warmer, than the first 2 titles. The sequencer comes early enough, around the 90 seconds, to make kicks which roll gently on fragile ground. The synth and the bass pads add a touch as melancholy as in the nice Schulze years while the whole inherits of this metallic tone proper to the more contemporary years. The transitions are smooth, one speaks of the percussions here which get in around the 7th minute and a strong intensity which gradually sticks to its crescendo. Another good track in in this album. Beautiful! A bit of lengths, but isn't it the signature of the master?
In the end and after several listenings, SILHOUETTES doesn’t deserve the severe reception of the critics. We expected more, and with good reason. But we forget that Klaus Schulze is 70 years old. And as far as I'm concerned, I prefer an older musician who accepts this reality that another who does unrealistic stuff for his age, thus seeking the big critic more focused on the needs of the press than on the reality. We would like more solos, more rhythms? Me too, but it doesn't mean that SILHOUETTES has no depth. It portrays the most accurately possible the state of mind of a composer on his decline and who describes it beautifully.
Sylvain Lupari (August 1st, 2018) ***½**
(Click on the artwork to hear the album on Spotify)