Many of Klaus Schulze's musical works have lead to critics describing his music as classical electronic, due to the symphonic like nature of his epic works. But whilst he has often touched on classical composition ideas, there has always remained a gap between his work and classical music. But by no means a gap he would be unwilling to traverse. Released in 2000, Ballett 1
is Schulze's most significant step into the classical music genre. Acting as his first album to truly fuse classical instrumentation and theory with his infamous sci-fi electronic sound; Ballett 1
can be considered one off Schulze's most significant releases. And with two of the three songs coming in at around 30 minutes each, it is easy to see that Schulze's ideas have been fully fleshed out in the album.
The emotion of Agony
is just that. The succinct title captures the thirty six and a half minutes perfectly, with the song itself fleshing out this emotion in a sprawling display. The instrumentation works to create tension throughout, gradually ebbing and flowing. The song seems devoid of a time signature, instead getting lost in its own struggle to convey agony. Cellist Wolfgang Tiepold does an immaculate job in creating their vision, with his cello being the focus throughout the song. Schulze does little in comparison, adding atmospheric noise to increase the depth of the sound. Together, their disregard of conformity makes Agony
drift away from typical song structures, with the mutual intent of Schulze and Tiepold shining through in the end. To some the lack of structure will however prove frustrating, and rather than become lost in emotion, they will be bored mindless. Agony
certainly is one to divide opinions.
shows far more of Schulze, with the balance between electronic and classical leaning more towards the former in texture. It seems that as the album progresses, the focus shifts from a more typical Schulze piece, to more classical in structure, and then in instrumentation. Getting Near
does as the name implies, creating a buzz in the air through blowy synthetic sounds that appear slightly erratic in their preparation for what is to come. Distorted flutes enter towards the end of the piece, signalling that whatever looms is close. The instruments in the song may be relatively few, yet there is a layered quality to the synths that creates depth to what may have otherwise been a hollow and uninspired piece.
Despite being only 1/3 the length of its counterparts, Getting Near
does fail to maintain any interest it creates. The erratic synths, perhaps most comparable to something by Steve Reich may at first elicit interest, but any minimalist shifts in pattern either fall unnoticed or do little to entertain. Thus making the song feel dragged out longer than it should have been. Furthermore, the blowy texture of the synths is not the most aurally pleasing texture, possibly irritating some listeners.
is very much the intermediary between the ‘extremes’ of Agony
and Getting Near
. Schulze’s contributions are substantial, yet not overbearing; Tiepold is given freedom, yet is not left to wander aimlessly as some would accuse him of doing in Agony
. The beat in the song is a major factor in the overall creation, as it finds a nice balance between giving the music a roadmap to follow and not overbearing on it.
Schulze’s contributions are not the real focus of Slightly Touched
. They do much to help the flow of the song, keeping it moving ahead, which some may feel Agony
needed. And perhaps more importantly, the selective atmospheric sweeps add incredible depth to Tiepold’s cello at the peaks of tension and emotion. Tiepold seems to rapidly build these peaks in tension, with much of the rest of the song made up of melancholy troughs. But the rhythmic contribution of Schulze pushes through this, and in the end the song never stretches out the melancholy to the point of boredom on the part of the listener.
The song titles of Ballett 1
offer accurate and strong hints as to what the album consists of. For Klaus Schulze it seems to be a transition from his more typical composition structure to free-flowing emotion, and also from electronic instrumentation to more classical instrumentation. For those fans of albums like Moondawn
by Schulze, who were enticed by the often operatic structure of the songs, Ballett 1
may disappoint where it could have succeeded. Whilst it marks a step towards more classical instrumentation: Instead of combining this instrumentation with the structure of his most famed works, he has rather lost sight at times. The themes from which he crafts each song are strong, and well represented. But rather than take the listener on a journey of exploration, he never develops the themes beyond their starting point. In the case of Agony
, he does allow the theme to develop, but allows himself and cellist Wolfgang Tiepold to become somewhat lost and self-indulgent. There are moments in which Schulze and Tiepold do work magic, most strongly seen in Slightly Touched
. But the execution on their vision does not do it justice.