Klaus Schulz has been at the forefront of German electronic music for over four decades now, and shows no signs of letting up. After his recent well-received collaborations with Dead Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerrard, Schulz traveled to Japan for a few solo shows. Although the most common criticism of his music is that it is too repetitive - even boring, I find it to be nothing of the sort. Schulz’s latest live recording, Big In Japan: Live In Tokyo 2010 may contain some extended tracks, but dull? Not at all.
The set opens with “The Crystal Returns” (38:03), which is a re-imagining of “Crystal Lake,” from his 1977 Mirage album. To be honest, there is very little in common between the two pieces other than their titles, but that is fine. What is obvious to those who consider themselves fans of Schulz is the huge amount of value he places on improvisation. While he clearly has a structure in mind at all times, the places he takes the music are what keep it so intriguing for us.
Nothing on Big In Japan is as intriguing as “Sequencers Are Beautiful” (39:00) though. As the title indicates, this is a sequencer-led track. The sound of Schulz’s vintage equipment is marvelously retro by the way. The opening segment of the cut features Klaus playing electric guitar, which is a rare live occurrence. Later a drum machine is added to the mix, which recall some of his rhythmic experimentations during the eighties and nineties. Midway through, a soothing ambient tone takes over - which carries the tune along for the duration.
The second CD of the set begins with the longest track “La Joyeuse Apocalypse” (46:35). Again, this is for the converted. The opening bars here immediately caught my attention as they remind me so much of David Bowie‘s “Warzawa,” from his Krautrock-influenced 1977 album Low. This is another very adventurous composition, with a plethora of moods described along the way. The remaining two pieces, “Nippon Benefit” (14:10), and “The Deductive Approach” (12:12) are also noteworthy, if for their brevity alone.
Big In Japan was originally released in Japan as a box-set, limited to 500 copies. This domestic edition contains the two CDs, and a DVD of the performance. Without the DVD one would be hard pressed to know that this is a live recording, as there is no audible crowd noise at all.
The ambient, electronic space music of Klaus Schulz may have limited appeal in today’s Gaga-world, but it is a rare treat. Big In Japan is a very worthwhile addition to his monumental catalog of work over the decades.