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Conrad Schnitzler - Gold

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Artist: Conrad Schnitzler

Album: Gold

Label: Marginal Talent

Review date: Sep. 11, 2003

Conrad Schnitzler might have a name that rolls off the tongue, but it will never reach same households currently downloading the IDM and laptop wunderkinds. Ironically, Schnitzler is the forefather of this creative wave in electronic music. He figures highly in the roots and early years of Krautrock – playing cello on the first Tangerine Dream album and then forming Kluster with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius in the early ’70s. But his role as forefather begins post-Kraut when he privately released two solo recordings of electronic music: Rot (1973) and Blau (1974). Released in editions of 500, these quickly became collector's items, but had little impact on the electronics movement at large. Schnitzler's position shifted in 1978 with the release of Con, a recording that seriously impacted the world of recorded music.

Con, Schnitzler's first large scale release from 1978 (the CD was reissued as Ballet Statique on the French label, Spalax), is an unsung classic of electronica. Building from the more accessible tradition started with Blau, the album is a destination cosmic voyagers and early fans of synth artistry would be wise to seek out. Twenty-five years distant from its original release, this otherworldly, playful and fantastic document still doesn't sound dated. But the chasm between Blau and Con had yet to be bridged and, despite recurring rumors to the contrary, no other collected works surfaced between these years.

Marginal Talent's recent release of Gold is the missing link between those classic recordings. It encapsulates the proposed album that Schnitzler was going to issue back in the day, though it would likely have been slimmed down in any vinyl incarnation, as the CD contains fourteen untitled tracks clocking in at over sixty minutes. But the fact that it presents unreleased works from 1974-78 makes any quibbling absurd.

With this collection, Schnitzler appears to have loosened up his attitude of 'don't look back.' Interviews have stated that he wants people to take note of his recent work and not concentrate on his past, but he has licensed the reissuing of all of his early work (if only for some of it to go out of print again) and it is definitely helping to enhance his reputation.

These fourteen recordings might not play as a cohesive unit but they are still classic Schnitzler. They travel all over the map from moody soundscapes to playfully percussive jaunts – at times they sound like interludes from some anonymous 1980s slasher film. Schnitzler manages to hover somewhere between pop and the avant-garde during this period, partially following his argument that he is an inter-media artist – as in 'in-between' the arts – as opposed to one working with multimedia. He is part Perrey-Kingsley and part Morton Subotnick, but this sort of stylistic pioneer-connecting is secondary because Schnitzler is more akin to a chemist or collage artist. He never comes across like a composer with a capital "C."

When compared to the music within, the packaging of the disc leaves much to be desired. The booklet's interior is done entirely in gold with no text and cursed with terrible layout on the covers. Why the world couldn't be spared some wasted paper at the expense of the 10 plain gold pages remains a lingering question. This sort of excess might be the wishes of Schnitzler, but it is unfortunate because the disc could benefit from a greater attention to appearance to help emphasize the historic status of its long-awaited release. Still, this is a fantastic collection and thoroughly listenable vintage electronic music that holds up better than most of its ilk, both past and present.

By Ted Sonnenschein

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