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Klaus Schulze - Royal Festival Hall Vol. 2 CD (album) cover

ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL VOL. 2

Klaus Schulze

 

Progressive Electronic

3.78 | 21 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Schulze's dark gothic erotic fantasy?

I picked up Klaus Schulze's `Royal Festival Hall: Volume 2' for $10 at a recent local record fair, and I had no real excitement to give it a listen. When I headed into that fair, I was determined to come away with an electronic related release, and this was to be my sole find that day. I had never heard a 90's Schulze release, and I expected to find a once innovative artist well past his prime, working in wishy-washy New Age dreck with charmless digital synths and zero inspiration. I also expected this live album to be nothing but lazy and uninteresting live performances of existing pieces. What I discovered was neither of those things, rather it contained a thought-provoking, controversial and exploratory work that will be a shock to many fans of his more well-known defining 70's releases.

Consisting of a live continuous 45 minute, 7 part seamless suite as well as an additional two extended tracks in the same style, these pieces take Schulze into the darkest recesses more along the lines of his sinister masterpiece `Blackdance'. Bridging the unending flowing and unwinding atmosphere of his landmark 70's albums, while incorporating then modern influences from progressive techno artists such as The Orb, it's his willingness to embrace current styles while respecting what made him so unique in the first place that makes this album so refreshing, and not merely a rehash of stale ideas and repetition of past achievements. The epic piece `Ancient Ambience' showcases Schulze at his most ambitious, experimental and even unpleasant, sure to make some listeners very uncomfortable. I can only offer my interpretation after numerous listens, and I'd be interested to know what other listeners come up with.

`Ancient Ambience' opens with a nine minute collage of eerie and unnatural animal cries, blowing creaking winds and distorted nature sounds, the slightest of synths washing the background. We accompany our female traveller as she moves through this black jungle with a sense of discovery and fascination, all the while unease keeping her on her guard. Chimes, gothic choirs, and the smacking of demonic lips filter through as dark unseen forces start to claw at our heroine. The first twinkling beats and imperial synths finally begin to enter, raising the drama as this ungodly presence starts to wrap it's way around her, a sense of panic with just a hint of curious fascination rising to the surface. Orgasmic female moaning, hissing shadows as the beats grow in tempo and urgency, slowing down, speeding up, back and forth like a mix of exquisite pleasure and unending pain. Over and over she is physically, emotionally, mentally, sexually worn down, a sense of exhaustion, disbelief, defeat and finally acknowledgement of how futile resistance truly is against overwhelming odds. Racing beats attack, tribal in their violent fury, full of thrashing lust and exquisite assimilation. But just a taste was all that was needed, and now our dark heroine craves `more'. Subtle murmuring bass and heart-quickening pulses as lust has turned to greed, eyes darting wildly searching for another fill, desperation taking over. Such a glimpse of unexplored potential, too late for the bleating terrified predators now become the prey. Confusion and disorientation moves through them. `You mean that's it?' she poses to them, before lunging in attack. Cowering in her presence, seeping back into the shadows to try unsuccessfully to escape her wrath, the new dark queen races through the land, consuming them all, growing in strength, no longer the victim. More, more, enough is never enough, shredding all before her into submission. She casts a final arrogant eye over her new kingdom and her fallen subjects, the final murmur that escapes her wicked lips more devilish than human. The frantic 10 minute climax of this gothic soundscape is just as good as anything to be found on Schulze's 70's peak albums, full of bristling percussion variety, dazzling synth/electric piano runs, swirling aggressive electronic assaults and pounding dance disorientation.

The 11 minute additional live track `Anchorage' carries on in the same style as the long piece, likely containing themes and passages that didn't initially fit into the first grand arrangement. The same female moaning and scratching animalistic noises weave around soft synth ebbing washes that quickly become quite cinematic, lonely downbeat sax and a heart-racing programmed pulse. The glistening beats grow in tempo and tension as the piece progresses, before ending on a booming and twisted piano crash. The disc then concludes on `Variation on B.F', an 11 minute studio piece that was intended to be played as an encore for the above live shows but dropped due to time constraints. A very imperial, oddly reflective and bombastic piano/synth solo piece with almost no percussive elements, haunting wordless female vocal and cello samples, truly monolithic and imposing in it's intensity, and it perfectly fits in with the other two compositions offered here.

If there is even the slightest chance Mr Schulze may read this review, I apologize in advance if my admittedly risky and questionable interpretation of his work here is completely wrong and at odds with what he was really out to achieve. But I also feel that this represents exactly what complex and challenging electronic music should be - completely immersive, emotional and truly open to interpretation. The original pieces presented here showcase a pioneering electronic artist still pushing himself and his listeners, constantly exploring, experimenting and moving forwards. `Royal Festival Hall: Volume 2' likely won't be an album you'll play over and over, and there are numerous, more important Schulze releases to explore before this one, but those who take the time to persist and listen closely to it's contents may discover a very unique and confronting work.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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