Picture Music (Rerelease)
CD / 3 tracks / 79.59 minsFirst up for review from the second batch of SPV Schulze re-issues is the seminal 'Picture Music'. It has been quite rightly numbered as Schulze's third album, ( it's release delayed by legal wrangling at the time). Originally recorded after 'Cyborg' in 1973, but not seeing a release until early 1975. In the meantime 'Blackdance' had been recorded and released, so you see the sequential problem here. I used the term 'seminal' to describe 'Picture Music' in a very deliberate way, as this was the first ever album of pure synth music from Mr. Schulze pointing the way ahead for his music right up to the present day. From the darkness into the light, 'Picture Music' presents the listener with the most cohesive, sparkling little album of Schulze's early career during the first half of the seventies, an album with direction and structure, something which was just not as prevalent in either of his previous recordings, 'Irrlicht', 'Cyborg' or indeed 'Blackdance', all having a more experimental edge to them.
The first thing that hits you with these re-issued album's is how well presented the whole package is, in a double gate leg card folder with the original artwork reproduced as per the original vinyl version,( though it has to be said that there are about six different versions of the cover art out there from previous re-releases). Again high quality transfers feature as an integral part of the card case design. The enclosed 16 page booklet provides photos from the era, a section of interview with the great man himself in 2004, and also a two page write up about the album. By way of a musical bonus on this re-issue we are presented with a rather sizable chunk of 33 minutes of music, (all re-issues will be released with additional material, from the same era whenever possible).
The album opens up with 'Totem', (23.53mins). An ethereal distant, light organ pattern is quickly overtaken by a central sequence of resonant percussive sounding synthwork, Played very much like some kind of electronic tabla, underpinned by the gentle organ motif the track progresses. Never before or since have l come across an extended piece like 'Totem' where a single sound can so easily carry the whole composition. I hear an influence of the American west coast minimalist movement creeping into the Schulze act here, certainly not run of the mill Berlin School, but non the less this is a purposeful slice of electronica that l still find decidedly easy to listen to whenever, wherever. The whole soundscape created works perfectly, the sounds gel brilliantly. The only thing that tells us that this music wasn't made just last week is the use of the rather dated sounding Farfisa organ, (but in these days of retro revival can we really be that sure???).
A change of time signature at the halfway mark heralds………..well, more of the same. The serene synth voicings giving the track a very human, earthly feel. Schulze displaying a real sensibility for the music.
'Mental Door', (23.02mins) coasts in and again we're faced with a track that would act as a template for what was to come from Schulze for the remainder of the seventies. A gentle build from white/pink noise FX into a soundbed of synth and organ before Klaus starts improvising a thick bassline using a sound so fat that he can work his way up the keyboard and get into a screaming solo section still using the same sound. Like most of the album simple but very very effective.
Ah, the tiny patter of drums arrive, building like the solo to a thunderous thrashing of the kit to a point at which it sounds like Klaus is testing it to destruction!!! Synth and organ work tails off the piece in a similar fashion to that employed in the closing refrains of 'Totem' and so ended the original album.
The bonus track now added to this release is a monumental 33 mins worth of music entitled,'C'est Pas La Meme Chose',(my French isn't that hot, but l think it translates as, 'it is not the same thing'). Basically this is a slightly different/ longer version of 'Totem' which was not used due to the constraints of recording time permissible on vinyl LP's. The phase of the recording is also kept in its original recorded state with the resonant percussive sequencing on one channel, the leads and pad sounds on the other,( not recommended for headphone listening l might add). Providing your hifi amplifier has a mono switch the phase can be turned back giving mixed channel playback, (all abit of a silly exercise really for the sake of afew musical purists out there).
So to surmise - if 'Picture Music' were a beverage, it would be a vintage cognac, carefully stored, brought out on a special occasion to be enjoyed by the connoisseur who can really appreciate such a fine old bit of plonk! The fact that an extended piece of music has been added to the album does nothing to detract from inspiration of the original recording. True, 'Timewind' was just around the corner which may have stolen the thunder from 'Picture Music's' arrival, but we're looking back at 1973 not 1975!! Minimalism from the states, (which is as near a sound as you're gonna' find on 'Totem') had produced nothing to compare with this, counterparts Tangerine Dream were in contractual no man's land, this REALLY was a seminal LP, a daring one off. A classic, youbetcha!!! (B22)
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