Klaus Schulze seems reluctant to play any gigs in the UK, with the result that his dedicated fans are forced to cross the Channel in order to see him play.
The man seems reluctant to play any gigs in the UK, but he's just undertaken a major tour of the rest of Europe, and E&MM sent spies to the Flemish University of Brussels to see Klaus Schulze perform some of his most recent material.
We arrived at Brussels Nord station 12 hours after leaving our warm and cosy beds in deepest Essex. The temperature in Belgium was a good 10 degrees below, the snow thick and slippery underfoot.
No chance of seeing the soundcheck now - if only the Jetfoil had been operating! But the most difficult part of the journey - actually finding the venue - was still to come. When the guy at the information office of the main Brussels railway station doesn't know where the University is, you know you've got problems. Needless to say, we eventually arrived at the well-hidden (most University halls seem to be) location only a matter of minutes before the doors opened. It had been a close-run thing...
The Hall itself was an impressive one, with steeply-raked seating for about 600 and an extremely low (about 18") stage that ensured everybody had a good view. The empty spaces at the edges of the auditorium were merely a result of people preferring to sit in the aisles in order to hear the music to better advantage - a good turnout.
As the concert began, plush velvet curtains opened to reveal a fine white net stretched across the front of the stage, through which filtered images of Crumar GDS and Fairlight monitor displays could just be seen. As the lighting behind the net increased in intensity, the ghost-like figures of Klaus Schulze and his longtime collaborator, Rainer Bloss, became apparent. And the music? 'From Long, Long Ago', taken from the Bloss album Ampsy.
The end of this piece (about three and a half minutes' worth) is cued by what seems to be Schulze's favourite Fairlight orchestra preset: and you don't need to be a Schulze fan to know the one I mean. This in turn acted as the cue for stage manager and chief technician Claus Cordes (backstage) to flick the switch that would release the net. This he did, to the apparent astonishment of the newly-revealed Schulze and Bloss.
Next piece on the concert agenda was the title track from recent co-operative long-playing venture Drive Inn, performed with unexpected verve and given extra sonic colour courtesy of Bloss' electronically-treated vocals.
But out with the old, in with the new: the major part of the set was dominated by rhythm, generated by unmistakably Schulzian rhythm patterns and sequencer lines. The pieces themselves had a semi-improvised feel. The odd familiar refrain would make itself evident now and then, but disappear again before it had time to become recognisable. Towards the end of the set we were treated to what might have been a rendition of 'Audentity' - the sounds were all there, but they were in the wrong order!
Schulze opened the gig's second half with a few words in English and French to what was a predominantly Flemish-speaking audience, but the crowd loved it, and gave the Germans a rousing reception as they launched into 'Drive Out', also from the Drive Inn album. A gentle piano refrain was gradually assaulted by synths and drum machines to produce a powerful if predictable climax, after which some steady rhythms reminiscent of the first half took over. Again, the music sounded new, with just the odd hint of the familiar.
An impressive electronic percussion solo (seemingly entirely improvised) gave way to one final sustained note that faded with the lighting - Schulze and Bloss had already left the stage.
Loyal Schulze fans will tell you that persistence pays when it comes to getting him to play encores, and so it proved in Brussels. But full marks nonetheless to the Belgians for their perseverance - I can't see a British audience ever waiting so long. Maybe they'd been tipped off in advance that the encore would comprise a startling rendition of Schulze's new single, 'Macksy'. The disc should be released by the time you read this, and if it's anything like the Brussels version, it'll be a catchy, beautifully-arranged instrumental with as much fire and energy as we've seen from the man for a while.
The encore's other elements were instantly recognisable - 'The Oracle' from Ampsy, with Bloss' eerie treated vocals, and the unforgettable 'Cellistica' from Audentity.
Like most of the audience, we reckoned that would be our lot. Photographer Alt Annison had already slipped back-stage in readiness for a posed photo session, and some members of the audience had begun to make their way out of the Hall... when Schulze surprised everybody by returning to the stage for an impromptu solo performance. The composer tried to calm the audience by asking for patience as he set up a Yamaha CS80, and moments later, he launched into a rendition of some completely new solo synth music, played with verve and vigour in his inimitable style.
An enjoyable evening, then, if not a classic. Maybe it was us - had the long journey dulled our capacity to be entertained? Quite possibly. I just wish Schulze would acknowledge the fact that his British fans aren't going to get to see him in the present climate unless they're both devoted enough and rich enough to make the trip. I may be devoted, but like an awful lot of electronic music fans, I'm not even the tiniest bit rich.
Show Report by Jeanette Emsley
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