Klaus Schulze's productivity has no limits. At least not until recently, since the waiting has been unbearable for many Schulze fans. In the meantime live releases, with or without Lisa Gerrard, various La Vie Electronique sets, as well as re-releases on smaller labels. That is why Shadowlands, by many, is considered the first regular album since Kontinuum from 2007. Shadowlands incorporates elements from the soundtrack to the German film Hacker, and is a breach of silence from a particularly prolific and honoured musician. A musician that creates half composed music, where it is up to the listener to finish it in his or her own image. Whether or not the expectations are proportionate with the state of reality is therefore up to the listener.
Standstill in Shadowland
From the first sweep of synthesizer, one meets a joyful, recognizable atmosphere. There are predictable chord pads in minor, and atmosphere so thick one can cut lumpy slices from it. Soon it appears that an old circus horse can not be trained to learn new tricks. The freshness, which a new album should represent, seems invariably absent.
The build-up is familiar. The dramatics are taken directly from the manual. And the obligatory arrival of sequencer is delivered as precisely as the ticking from a Rolex watch.
The first epic mastodon “Shadowlights” is a grandious nocturne, suitable for immersion activities. The atmosphere is the principal, and the production overdraws on Schulze's actual musical capacities and, not least, creativity.
A hidebound standstill from the Farscape era reigns, as well as the otherwisely excellent Kontinuum.
The violinist lifts the track to delicate and venerable heights. It is the soaring fiddling on the violin that cuts right to the nerve of the track and hits bull's eye in the emotional gamut. One seems almost, note my choice of word, almost, thrown back to the heyday of Trancefer.
After sixteen minutes the listener gets a well-earned feeling of tangible texture, when programmed drums makes the floating music stream more consequent and insistingly into the listener's sensory system. The harmony of violin and processed voices from the archive ignites something disturbingly beautiful. A crescendo is under construction and climaxes. A well known trump from Klaus Schulze's live enterprise. That creates an intensity unlike the dark, thick airiness from earlier on. “Shadowlights” gets a quick fade, and dies a beautiful death.
On the other side, comes the divided, yet inseparable amalgamation of “In Between” and “Licht Und Schatten”. By way of introduction, the narrative is opaque. Already from the diffuse and dizzying start with artificial voices, the abstract character is an immediate winner. Previously used factory settings surfaces. “Constellation Andromeda” from the re-release of Dreams, haunts the entire performance. Later on, fast sequencer embellishes the story, and it gets a sharper outline.
A bongo like (synthetic of course) entrance dresses the sound image in an eloquent psychedelic outfit. The percussion stands alone, when the second part, “Licht Und Schatten” arises. Lisa Gerrard's digital nonsense vocal influences the sound image. Weird decision to index a track here, as no remarkable progression happens, or something one would want to fast forward to.
Halfway through “Licht Und Schatten” there is a breaking up to a hybrid semi-avantgarde meets pseudo-new age, with a lamenting computerized Lisa Gerrard upfront. Well known string chords enters. A bridge is build to sequencer. The progress is static, until we once again get a quick and brief fade.
The bonus material is as long as the actual album, but might contain some of the best moments. At least in in “The Rhodes Violin”. The audience shouldn't be surprised about its kinship with “The Theme: The Rhodes Elegy” from Virtual Outback. In the same vein, a repetition goes on endlessly. A delicious, spacious motif is the backbone to cinematic improvisations, performed on primarily acoustic sounding instruments.
The narcotic, and instantly relaxing quality from “The Theme: The Rhodes Elegy” is only present during the first half of the track. Although with a special middle eastern aura.
After 26 minutes it awakes from its hibernation. The long-lived violin changes from being plucked to being played with bow, when the sequencer from disc one returns. Again Trancefer comes to mind.
The pace is increased, straight after the regulations. The fade happens quickly. Despite the well known formula, Schulze treads new land briefly, which he should do a lot more, if you ask me.
In “Tibetanian Loops” I don't hear a remote reflection of brilliance. That repetition amplifies comprehension has been exhaustedly displayed on the four, previous tracks. Symbolically, it full circles and finishes Shadowlands in a slightly bad fashion.
I am bored quite a few times during this two and a half hour long oeuvre. An effort of stark unoriginality, especially after the long wait. There are almost nothing new under the sunset. Schulze himself enters the same level as the listener, by adding to previous (after the philosophy) half-baked works, without the ability to come closer to a conclusion.
If you prefer the great wide open and loose ends, you will definitely find joy in Shadowlands brief fraction of the infinite. Isolated, Shadowlands is a King Solomon's mine of beautiful tones, if you can forget the meisterwerks from the past.