Conrad Schnitzler – “Conviction” (2007)

November 30, 2009 at 1:45 am (Krautrock, Music, Reviews & Articles, Tangerine Dream)

Taken from the Cyclic Defrost website comes this Ewan Burke review (March 20, 2007) of Krautrock legend (and former Tangerine Dream and Kluster member) Conrad Schnitzler’s album Conviction (released on the Ricochet Dream label)…

Conrad Schnitzler is a bona-fide krautrock legend. Born in Dusseldorf in 1937, he went on to study sculpture with Joseph Beuys in the 1960’s, helped to form the Zodiac Free Arts Lab in Berlin, and in 1969 played on Tangerine Dream’s epochal debut album Electronic Meditation. He then went on to form Kluster with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius. They made two LP’s together – Klopfzeichen and Zwei Osterei (both 1971) – before Schnitzler left, and Kluster became Cluster. Schnitzler’s first solo release was Schwarz in 1972, and since then he’s barely let up from a hefty release schedule (his catalogue runs to over fifty albums.)

And so to Conviction, Schnitzler’s first for the Stateside Ricochet Dream label. The digipak cover shows a bleak scene of a steam-belching locomotive moving through a snow-covered landscape, and the eighteen track titles – ‘Eerie Station’, ‘Across the DDR’, ‘Close by Berlin’ etc. – mostly refer to an imaginary journey from the the former East to West Germany. However, despite eighteen tracks being listed on the cover, this is really just one hour-long track which doesn’t vary hugely from beginning to end. Schnitzler’s signature sound of rhythmic electronics chugs away throughout – there are no drum sounds and no basslines at all, yet the music is intensely rhythmic due to the percussive sounds and repetitive sequences employed.

It’s tempting to compare this album to Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express – but whereas Kraftwerk’s train journey seemed rather quaint and charming – passing by the “parks, hotels and palaces” of ‘Europe Endless’ – Schnitzler’s journey takes place in an endless night illumined by flourescent arc lights, moving through soulless conurbations and blasted, ravaged countryside (like the Zone in Tarkovsky’s Stalker.)

At times there are echoes of Phaedra-era Tangerine Dream, but this music is colder, and less programmatic. Conrad Schnitzler is not an artist who seeks to draw you into his world – you have to make the effort to go to him. Is it worth it? I’d have to say yes. There is something undeniably hypnotic and deeply pleasing about his endlessly coiling, spiralling, morphing sequences and gloomy, industrial ambience.

This CD has been released in a limited edition of 300, so be quick if you want one.

Ewan Burke

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