jeudi 30 juin 2011

KLAUS SCHULZE: Big in Japan (2010) European Version

I hesitated for a long time before writing about Big in Japan. Those who read me know how much I can’t stand all the mercantilism that lives into the disproportionate ambitions of those who manage artists' career that fans venerate. In the field of EM, we can easily speak about Klaus Schulze and his numerous re editions, as well as the Dream and Jean Michel Jarre for their so numerous compilations and re editions. Big in Japan is among musical articles that fans of Schulze have to buy on 3 editions in order to see and hear all of these splendid concerts held in Japan on March 20th and 21st of last year. The 1st edition is the Japanese one released on 2010, September 22nd on Captain Trip Records label. Issued in 500 box-sets, it was sold at very high price and became quickly out of print. It was a wonderful box-set including a booklet of 80 pages with the following tracks on CD 1; A Crystal Poem and The Crystal Returns while CD 2 contains La Joyeuse Apocalypse, Japanese Benefit and The Deductive Approach. Moreover the CD 2 contains the same tracks for all the 3 editions. As for the DVD, it contains A Crystal Poem and Sequencers Are Beautiful. This last track isn’t on the 2 CD set.
A 2nd version came out some weeks later. The European version landed in tubs in November 26th MIG on label. This edition is the one that I will write to you about and is appreciably the same as the Japanese version except for CD 1 which doesn’t contains A Crystal Poem but rather Sequencers are Beautiful and the DVD contains A Crystal Poem and the complete version of Sequencers Are Beautiful. Everyone follow? And, finally, on April 17th, 2011 the American version invaded the North American market, still on MIG label, and included the same set-list as the European version except for the DVD which includes the whole CD 2 of all versions. So, to obtain the whole recordings (video and audio) from both concerts of Schulze in Japan we have to get your hands on the 3 versions! This won’t be easy because the Japanese version is sold out.
Big in Japan's story is fabulous. A very huge Japanese fan, Mr Gen Jujita, invited Klaus Schulze to give 2 concerts in Japan. To do so, he gathers a team that will build all the equipment and modules used by Schulze during his concerts in Europe during the majestic period of the 70’s. The legendary German synthesist had to bring only his toothbrush, so much everything was served to him on a golden bridge. And it is a strongly moved and inspired Schulze that we will hear and see on these concerts. Klaus Schulze who offered his first solo compositions since 2007, be since Kontinuum, and which had the taste to make a travel through time and so play with the fantasies of his fan host.
After a soft mist breathed in and exhaled by choirs of his synth Roland, we hear The Crystal Returns' first twinkling arpeggios skip. For this concert, Klaus Schulze agrees to retouch a jewel of his crown in the album Mirage (1977) and remodel a part of the wonderful Crystal Lake, be the divine crystalline carousel of arpeggios which espouses a perfect movement of ascension where glass chords cavort and are unfolding beneath fine synth pads and impulses of a bit dramatic bass line, while the movement is getting a bit more increasing. These first 12 minutes of The Crystal Returns are magic. We are letting ourselves float in time and taking by this minimalism flow which runs in our ears with the same bewitchment as in 1977, to sink into a soft ambient passage at around the 13th minute. Synths fly of their ambient stratas on a soft oniric movement, forgetting the synth surges and solos of the original work. The only track not represented on none of the 3 DVD, The Crystal Returns goes out of its musical torpor with good percussions around the 19th minute. Percussions which hammer a very rock progressive rhythmic, supported by a sequential movement which waves of its agitated and nervous doubloons to pound feverishly on a good line of bass. Schulze hammers these imaginary skins with ardour while he sculptures the atmosphere of soft and suave solos, getting closer so to more Crystal Lake's atmospheres. Too long? Hardly! Because there is a fine oscillation in the movement which is quieting down at around the 28th minute with a synth to solitary breezes which spread their romantic fragrances with celestial choruses that Schulze likes so much to sculpture. A brief passage before the unbridled rhythm of sequences takes back its rights and remains silent in a smashing spiral humming. With its heavy pulsating waves which run in loops, Sequencers Are Beautiful's intro can seem annoying. An intro where we see Schulze triturated a guitar to free iridescent layers and lamentations in a caustic ambiance where this minimalist movement is dying of its last humming at around the 4th minute. A point where superb percussions forge a curious rhythm of style to reggae and tribal. A rhythm that will be basis for rhythmic structure on other tracks such as La Joyeuse Apocalypse and The Deductive Approach. Silky, the synth spreads its layers and wraps this rhythm of dramatic pads with violin strings which tear up a festive atmosphere. Very musical, sequences pound a hypnotic tempo which runs out gradually to leak away in a foggy astral where Schulze let goes layers of synth over layers of synth and where celestial choirs breathe in of their synthesized voices in a very serene musical approach. They sing under strata of fanciful violins and on a structure sometimes suave, sometimes hatched and sometimes ambient on a long passage (maybe too long) of about 23 minutes before delicate sequences alternate and draw a nice melody which renews with percussions impulses of the opening. This passage is splendid in particular because of the orchestration skilfully added by a strongly inspired Schulze which frees choruses and violined salvoes on his juxtaposed rhythms. Too short rhythms which lie down in a weak finale where ambiances cross stormy passages of harpsichord, guitars and flutes. This is too many elements is so less time on a track rather long. That’s a proof that even the Master can blow the whistle and totally miss of discernment.
La Joyeuse Apocalypse is similar in many points to Sequencers Are Beautiful. If the intro is less annoying while offering fewer syncretic variations, the beat is there also nice and warm with wave-like tribal sequences. A bewitching rhythm which is more constant and slowly minimalist with some variances in sequences. It goes on until the appearance of a guitar that Schulze hands with a blade of metal to tear away a universe of tones as metallic as eclectic, slowing down the rhythm for a few moments. A short cosmic inserts is settling with nice synth layers which are disappearing above quixotic notes of an acoustic guitar played straight from the notes of the Roland. And La Joyeuse Apocalypse finds refuge in soft spheres that remind those of In Blue, while the tempo starts again. This time, it’s accompanied with nice pads of a light synth which lets float its chords as falling leaves. Synth solos fuse with dexterity. Solos which are winding to this long rhythm, semi trance and semi ambient, dressed in wonderful synth layers during the whole 2nd part. And quietly sequences of La Joyeuse Apocalypse ease down beneath the breezes of an oniric synth which frees layers astral choruses, guiding us towards a well deserved rest of senses. Monastic and angelic choirs, Nippon Benefit begins with a synthesized rippling choral. An element that Schulze exploits to profusion on Big in Japan, this time the choir is melting to heavy orchestral arrangements, witness of the still persistent craze of Schulze for fanciful operettas. The rhythm pierces with difficulty this vocal membrane to offer sequences which alternate by zigzagging and dancing crazily on a structure absent of rhythm but supported by nice synth layers. It’s a rather interesting structure due to its deflecting movement but which will miss time to be exploited deeper. After an intro with so ill-assorted and iridescent tones as we find on Sequencers Are Beautiful and La Joyeuse Apocalypse, The Deductive Approach concludes this 2 cd set concert to the antipodes of annoys and envy with a delicate rhythmic a bit chaotic where sequences skip beneath nice synth layers filled of ethereal mist. A synth which hooks its twisted and sharp solos on a captivating cadence where the rhythm seems cut in an amphibic approach. 
The DVD? Well, it’s quite well realized. We are seeing there a Schulze doing all the exhibit of his knowledge on a sober stage, in front of 3 giant screens where bluish geometrical figures are switching and melting according to his music. It’s not that daring but rather sober and the producers didn’t judge relevant to add bonus material such as interviews, a history of these concerts or a making of... Nothing! Zip! Nada! So there goes the fan respect! As for the music A Crystal Poem is very similar to The Crystal Returns and Sequencers Are Beautiful's version is stretched of 4 minutes. But beyond the music, there is a great performance of Klaus Schulze. We see a very inspired Schulze, more than on his concerts with Lisa Gerrard, who has fun with his toys and who makes a surprising demonstration of all the possibilities of these instruments to multiple tones and of which the immoderation equals the infinite absolute. DVD of the Japanese and European versions present nice shots on a sober editing whereas the American version is more nervous and I would say more audacious with close-up and beautiful fish-eyes effects and fading with more lively and pastel colors on screens that show images and drawings half psychedelic and half real. Regarding this, La Joyeuse Apocalypse version is by far superior to Sequencers Are Beautiful. And I still don’t understand why not produced a box-set of 3 CD and 2 DVD, instead of 3 versions that will cost big money if we want to see both concerts.
Lengths! There is because it’s 2 concerts with tracks that are enormously alike; 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. We can also put The Deductive Approach in this lot. But it’s part of Schulze’s process who enjoys dressing his minimalist symphonies with subtle ethereal synth layers, choirs and suave solos while playing on sudden rhythms. And these lengths possess this character so particular to Schulze emotions, poetic and roaming spirit. As for me, this box-set allowed me to rediscover the charms of Mirage while glancing through all the phases of Schulze with camera shots somehow very intimate. Of course I loved it! But I’m a Schulze mega fan. But I also believe that there is room for those who want to discover this enigmatic character because the music presents beautiful variations on the same themes, but with permutations quite noticeable to make a real difference and the American version is really make for a wider audience, so that everyone would fine a gain somewhere.

Sylvain Lupari (2011)
Cet article est disponible en Français sur le site de Guts of Darkness, dont je suis chroniqueur sous le nom de Phaedream

mercredi 8 juin 2011

RAMSAYGEE: Ways (2011)

With Exotic, released in 2010, RamsayGee offered us a musical bouquet of freshness with tribal rhythms characteristic of the African cultures. In Ways, the South Africa synthesist does it again by offering a very clannish album with a more world approach. On rhythms always so suave and ebullient we can hear a lot of diversified world flavours as Oriental, Mexican, Latin and African. A little as in Exotic, Gareth Ramsay plays enormously on variety to offer 11 tracks of which tribal savours often border a soft techno synth-pop filled with strong multicoloured samplings. I feel there a curious and attractive scent of Software, Digital Dance era and post Chip Meditation II, and even Jean Michel Jarre on percussions and sequences structures, with brief intrusions toward the musical approach of DJ and their nasal and synthetic vocalises that tilt a bit on the easiness of Teen-pop. But be reassured, RamsayGee has known how to keep intact his sounder spirit.
Heavy resonant chords which slide on mix tones open noisily Vortex Ethnicana. There are a lot of things that happen on this 3:33 length track! And this is the way that Ways goes; a lot of sounds and tones on short periods of time. The fervent rhythm is moulded in heavy syncopated sequences which quiver among heavy and curt riffs of synth and metallic percussions à la Jarre. A tempo which is relenting by brief inserts of Latin guitar and a very nice passage of Arabian kind tribal percussions. That’s a hell of a start. More exotic and strongly tinted with oriental vocal samplings, Universal Nomad turns on a circular tempo with ascending sequences rhythmic structure. We have beautiful orchestrations, stunning nomad peoples’ vocal samplings and beautiful mellotron layers which are winding around this syncopated rhythm to maintain a pace accompanied by a soft melancholic violin. The multiplicity of sounds on very commercial phases finds all its sense on Island Flowers which begins with chimpanzees’ shrieks. Shouts which cross a heavy sequence and percussions pounding a steady beat, the whole thing is wrapped by a subtle mellotron synth. A felted, nasal and very synthetic voice (a bit in the mould of Lady Gaga, Cher and Britney Spears) is showing with shouts of whale and Island Flowers stumbles over an abundance of sounds on a very catchy rhythm. The kind we hear everywhere on commercial radios these days. It’s not that bad but it sounds very Teen-pop mixed in a fauna of very fluid and tribal sound samplings. Love Mirage is in the same vein but a bit more unctuous, languishing and exotic with its heavy sequence which pulses among synthesized voices and gypsy violins. Homelands pursues the African world quest with a nice electronic ballad where sequences and percussions shape a slow hypnotic tempo that a fluty synth accompanies towards more fluid rhythms. That’s a nice track which changes from ballad to in sweet synth-pop on a circular and finely hatched tempo. The flute here is particularly superb, especially in duel with the acoustic guitar. That track would fit very well in a soundtrack for a documentary about the African savanna. Always in the same register, Loona Faze flows slowly on a fluid rhythm with strong African tendencies.
Tennis is a very good track which brings us back in the Software era with an intro furnished of volatile sequences which flutter in a gyrating movement when percussions fall with Arabic flutes. A nice intro where the acoustic guitar is grafting to this musicality which deviates to borrow a chaotic rhythm à la Kraftwerk with a use of vocoder. The nasal and robotics voice talks on a nervous structure fed by hopping sequences and banging which are colliding as balls on a tennis court. And the suave musicality of the intro re-appears to sink again towards an even more hard-hitting and robotically technoïd tempo. It’s one of Ways’ best tracks, quite as Zeros and Ones and its heavy rhythm eroded by a hatched structure and this great diversified musicality that we find on Ways. Vocuitar is a sweet ballad with a languishing and oscillating rhythm on warm suggestive vocalizes. After a soft oniric intro where a synth hems above bells and a smooth synth/ sax spreads its melancholy, Ways the title track, borrows soft Arabic tribal paths with fine percussions which drum with pulsations while the cadence is accentuating to pours into a tribal techno worth’s of great word music. The Path to You concludes with a heavy rhythm which turns in a quite robust ballad sung in a man / woman vocal duel on a tempo à la Mike Oldfield. It’s quite out of key when we listen all around Ways, with its pop approach.
I quite enjoyed Ways, as much as I appreciated Exotique. Gareth Ramsay is forging himself a style that it strands him out from this very fluctuating universe that became EM. It’s not Berlin School style. I would say that it’s a delicious blend of Software, Kraftwerk, Jarre and Oldfield styles. Surely there are tracks that left me of ice (Island Flowers and Love Mirage), but it’s quite little if we compared to those 11 very diversified tracks that weave the musical canvas of this RamsayGee’ 2nd opus.

AD Music: AD89CD-R

Sylvain Lupari (2011)
Cet article est disponible en Français sur le site de Guts of Darkness, dont je suis chroniqueur sous le nom de Phaedream

You can watch videos of RamsayGee here on You Tube:
Universal Nomad: 

If you want to know more on Divine Matrix, visit his web page on the AD Music web site: