Monday, 8 August 2011

Conrad Schnitzler (1937-2011)

This weekend I received the sad news that Conrad Schnitzler, a giant in the world of electronic music has passed away.

Briefly a member of Tangerine Dream and Kluster, Con was also seemingly omnipresent as a generation of German recording artists searched to discover their musical identities. Along with legendary producer Conny Plank it is Conrad Schnitzler whose name seems to appear time and time again in articles and accounts relating to the development of radical, innovative new sounds in German music during the early Seventies. From the founding of the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, a Berlin music venue in which avant-garde musicians could cut their teeth to his free-form live experimental project Eruption, through to being able to offer advice and inspiration to fledgling musicians, Conrad Schnitzler always seemed to be there.

And then there is Con the solo musician. Schnitzler once described his own work as "cold hard electronic sound," and therein lies a large part of what makes his output so fascinating. As a solo artist he was incredibly prolific, releasing hundreds of albums and his style was utterly idiosyncratic. Try as they might nobody could possibly hope to imitate sounds that were so totally unique. The curious uninitiated may want to try the Peter Baumann produced Con (1978), later reissued as Ballet Statique as a point of entry in to his discography. The opening track, Electric Garden is balanced somewhere between evoking a dark Blade Runner-esque cityscape and delivering exactly what the title suggests. A subtle, yet ominous drone comes and goes, electronic noises buzz like mechanical flies and rhythmic sounds, some of which suggest water dripping echo and spiral as the music gradually builds up, becoming denser. This is a garden with a twist, though. It is as if all of the insects and plant life are constructed from metal with any moving parts assisted by hinges and screws. This may be cold and hard, as Schnitzler suggested, but there is also a glacial beauty at play. The wonderful Cassette Concert Series, reissued in five CD volumes also comes highly recommended. Track titles such as Voltage Dance Steps, Solar Cells, Symphonia Mecanica and Contrapuntal Interstellar Radars might provide an idea of what to expect.

Con, we salute you for your influence and for delivering music that nobody else could. May you rest in peace.

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