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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Mario Schönwälder Hypnotic Beats (1990)

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

There is a mountain of very interesting EM in this album which is a splendid, from start the end, highly inspired by the digitals years of Klaus Schulze

1 Moogazyn 21:49

2 A Dream, Merely A Dream 7:45

3 The Garden of Sanssouci 21:46

4 Niemandsland 4:32

5 Hypnotic Beats 20:57

6 White Tower 3:00

(DDL 83:01) (V.F.)

(New Berlin School)

Long before Keller & Schönwälder, there was Mario Schönwälder. Before this success which made him known with Detlev Keller, he already had a great solo career which offered him a whole perspective on the possibilities of EM, leading him to set up the Manikin Records label. He was able to diversify the horizons of this label by becoming a leader in the field of research and design of EM instruments including the famous Memotron. We also owe to this label the many box-sets of Klaus Schulze and Ashra Temple in its catalog which offers nearly 200 of very selective titles today. A lover of the Berlin School, he is also known for his numerous collaborations with artists such as Thomas Fanger for the Analog Overdose series and Frank Rothe in the Filter-Kaffee series, in addition to prestigious artists like Bernd Kistenmacher, Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock and Harald Grosskopf, notably in this HYPNOTIC BEATS. The German musician has been working his way since the mid-80's. It was in 88 that his name became familiar with the album Musique Intemporel, a compilation album where two of his titles were found with such dominant artists at the time, like Bernd Kistenmacher and Rolf Trostel. His first solo album, The Eye of the Chameleon was released on Kistenmacher's label, Musique Intemporelle. HYPNOTIC BEATS is his second individual effort to be released on this label. Written between November 1989 and June 1990, it's steeped in the feelings of Berliners following the fall of the Berlin Wall. And the music was entirely conceived from synthesizers and digital percussion. Don't look for Amadou Delbasse Bokou playing the drums on the title-track, it's Harald Grosskopf.

The CDs were all sold and a second edition was released in 1992 on the newly innovated label Manikin Records. Again, the CDs were all sold, leaving only crumbs pulled from Napster at the time, before SynGate seized the rights in a revamped edition in April 2005. We note in this edition that Spirit of Love was removed. In addition, the wonderful The Garden of Sanssouci is completely re-edited in its true format of 21:46, compared to the 10:26 minutes of the original version. White Tower was added, as it was initially agreed. A nice puzzle for fans of the sympathetic Mario Schönwälder who have purchased this edition in order to collect the missing pieces. In terms of sounds, what is this edition worth? After having discussed it with the lucky ones who own both versions, the version of SynGate, remastered by Gerd Wienekamp of Rainbow Serpent, is more muffled, like if a bit subdued compared to that of Musique Intemporelle. I totally agree, even that I find the sonic range of the original version to be deeper with more power. This is important since the percussions play a preponderant role in this album. Now for the music ...

Moogazyn opens HYPNOTIC BEATS with light varied tones, such as percussions on bottom of bottles or a short Tibetan percussive symphony, which resonates in a static ambience topped with short synth layers floating between two tones to activate the bells of Tibet a little more. In the distance, a new form of percussion appears discreetly, initiating the minimalist rhythm of Moogazyn. The bassline is heavy and superbly sensual. It waddles with slow implosions, setting a slightly groovy Middle East tribal beat. Recorded in concert at the Verden Cathedral in September 1989, Moogazyn sums up in one piece the hypnotic depths of this album. It's a long track structured on a single sequence which is accompanied by solid percussions and a good bass line. Mario grafts pretty good melodic avenues and synth layers which modulate a luxuriant ambience and fleshed out by subtle variations. It's an immensely captivating, enveloping and possibly the most beautiful title from the founder of Manikin. At Dream, Merely A Dream is livelier, more energic with good sequences, a good core of percussions, good percussive effects and a bass line that is in symmetry with the sequences and percussions. The synth is nasal. It walks with ease and breathes a superb harmony that instantly hooks with its Middle East sound and the fragrances of Klaus Schulze's first digital movements, one of the major sources of inspiration for Mario Schönwälder. There is a slight snag towards the final, in both versions.

The intro of The Garden of Sanssouci is messy. A bass hums to sound effects, clashes and synth breaths that reigned over the previous piece. After a hesitant walk between two explosions the bass crashes with a roar. This explosion gives birth to phase two of HYPNOTIC BEATS. A hypnotic line, built on discreet and hammering percussions and on a methodical bass, structures a movement which is also very Klaus Schulze in Miditerranean Pads. The harmonies that float on this hybrid rhythm carry a beautiful seal of Arabian sensuality in an oriental dance, the Baladi. The rhythm is faster and more intense than the opening title. It advances under layers and synth solos until it hits an atmospheric wall. A five-minute interlude where Schönwälder uses chorus and percussions to create a static ambience that infuses more depth into the hypnotic pursuit of The Garden of Sanssouci. And Arabian tones, the synth takes on a superb more sensual hue with these airs and breezes of a saxophone begging the darkness of the night. I definitely like this new version better. Even if the last few minutes explain the original version a little better.

After the vaporous, but intense, Niemandsland, the title-track takes us back to the minimalist universe of HYPNOTIC BEATS. This time, the rhythm is livelier with the percussions of Harald Grosskopf. More agitated, it jumps on the pairing of sequences and electronic percussions which are linked to the maneuvers of Ashra Temple's percussionist. Its spasmodic state gives it an African tribal flavor. The lines and harmonies of the synth slowly float with thin atmospheric layers, contrasting with the lively playing of Grosskopf. Two contrasts and two oppositions which give a very strange symbiosis where nostalgia is at the rendezvous. White Tower ends HYPNOTIC BEATS on an ambient note. The synth is heavy and sad. It sails on fine percussions and takes a symphonic form around the scattered notes of an acoustic guitar. What about Spirit of Love from the original edition? It's a track as beautiful as Moogazyn, but with more bite and depth in the percussions. The music comes out more here with a more contemporary envelope. I love that cello effect that gives the music a tint of mystery like in Robert Schroeder's Brain Voyager.

There is a mountain of very interesting EM in this second album by Mario Schönwälder. He is a brilliant artist that I love very much and who has contributed, and still contributes, to the development of Electronic Music, Berlin School style. HYPNOTIC BEATS is a variation on the same theme, in three different stages, interspersed with slightly shorter pieces that break up the moods, thus changing our perception of the evolution of this album highly inspired by the digital textures of Klaus Schulze. This version of SynGate would be the one Mario envisioned at the very beginning of its story. Thus, giving to this superb work all its meaning, its softness, its subtlety and its depth.

Sylvain Lupari (August 10th, 2006) ****¼*

Available at Manikin Bandcamp

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