Perhaps the one positive with Conrad Schnitzler’s passing is that his work is going through somewhat of a renaissance. With the reworking of many of his pieces by contemporary artists on the M=Minimal label and now we have reissuing of some of his earliest solo albums on Bureau B. Schnitzler early on in the German electronic scene served as somewhat of a connective tissue playing on the first Tangerine Dream album as well as with Dieter Moebieus and Hans-Joachim Rodelius as part of Kluster and founding the Zodiak Free Arts Lab where both groups first played in public.
But it is with Schnitzler in isolation that we see him in his most radical form. On Meditation his first track on Rot his debut solo release, there are growing dissonant harmonies, piercing and booming. There are vast array of sounds harsh and electronic, joined by those softer more animalistic. Then the entry of characteristic high oscillating and long synth lines, in chorus with a loping rhythm of sounds as they loop fade and loop again. It then ends on metallic reverberations of earlier sounds. With it all there is a freeness and randomness as your aurally probed, though behind it there is an underlying structure, stopping it from dissipating into chaos. No matter how seemingly random the noises from the outset, his music has a developmental arc.
Krautrock starts with spasmic birdlike noises with a fluid morphing rhythm, building to false peaks. Half way through it changes shift, peaking down into the ominous with a flattened horror film organ feeding in and fading. A consistent but changing rhythm provides navigation through the shifting sounds. Krautrock within its core provides one of the most strongly impressionistic piece on these two releases. Spasmodic birds returns to bookend the piece, deformed into a rhythmic throng, cleverly re-joined at the last with our old rhythmic guide.
Red Dream a track not on original release, starts with, sun rising swathes of synth, rising and fading. Even within this beauty there is menacing overtone. Compared to the rest of Rot this is Schnitzler at his more restrained with cleansing stark tones, cleaning the palette. The setting fades, to delayed stultified drums, that develop into a more concrete pattern, over this minimal scene he riffs over the top with screeching noises, morse like beeps and impressionistic noises. Wave of synths return though this time less pristine, muddied by the controlled cacophony of noises coming at you.
Red Dream serves as a nice transition to Blau as Blau shows the more restrained side of Schnitzler psyche. With slowly eroding rhythmic grooves into the songs structure, then joined once again by ominous organ noises, the light plink plonk of artificial rainwater, turning into swirling confounding patterns. Then the subtle introduction of depressed slurred tones, demurring to silence.
Jupiter emerges with alternate sounds that were in Red Dream similar but slightly off. There is more of planned chaotic spark of Rot, with buzz, high-pitched tones, varying shifting patterns though still engulfed in a mellowness which undercuts. It quickly morphs ending up in the futurist realm as interstellar lift music. Melodic wails, merge with mix of sounds as are beats all coming all at you, but rather than assaulting you, they soothe and comfort.
Blau features an extra suite of tracks under the title Wild Space, they present Schnitzler perhaps at his most accessible, with the pieces condensed and developing more quickly. Wild Space 2 features the Zug like rhythm and though relatively restrained with strong airy melodic vibe. The pieces later progresses to harder metallic rhythms and eerie synth tones such as on Wild Space 5.
The beauty of Schnitzler in these early works is that from start to finish everything can have changed the rhythm, melody, pitch, tones yet there is a continuity. Trademarks of these releases are constant oscillation and variation of sounds. Creating a futuristic, surreal atmosphere, with a sense of menace The albums when compared reflect their names, Rot provides more of a direct challenge, often in agitation, while Blau is far less aggressive and feels more restrained in tone. Both show varying elements of Schnitzler’s work and with over 50 years of music we can only hope that more of Schnitzler’s music is revived as well as reworked by others.