Nicklas Sørensen has been the guitarist for the Danish instrumental rock group Papir, but he’s just released a solo debut fittingly titled Solo that’s every bit as great as his work with Papir. That might be because his bandmates Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen and Christian Becher Clausen join him on his solo record, but whatever name they decide to release material under is fine by me as long as it keeps coming. While there is a lot of overlap, this release has a pronounced krautrock focus which really gives Sørensen the freedom to explore every conceivable sound he can muster from his Fender. It really reminds me a lot of Hallogallo with a little bit of the Inner Tube record put out by Mark McGuire of Emeralds and Spencer Clark. Both Papir and Sorenson’s Solo are available for purchase on LP over at El Paraiso Records. In addition to his Papir bandmates, Jonas Munk joined Sørensen for these sessions, who is a member of Causa Sui and one of the head honchos at El Paraiso. As if the guarantee of health care and overall high quality of life weren’t enough to make you yearn for Scandanavia, blissed-out psych rock is making an exodus from these United States even more appealing.
This track is one half of Schulze’s 1975 release Timewind and while it’s certainly a wonderful example of Berlin School electronic experimentation, one look at Schulze’s discography highlights the difficulty of picking just one release. He performed on Tangerine Dream’s debut album Electronic Meditation as well as on the Lord Krishna Von Goloka release that I’ve also written about here in addition to releasing over 40 albums of his own beginning with Irrlicht.
Part of that extensive discography includes releases under another name, Richard Wahnfried which he described in the notes for Time Actor as a blending of avant garde music and hypercommercial muzak. This appropriation of commercial ambient music in service of avant garde forms influences many experimental musicians today, from manipulating cassette tapes originally designed for corporate outreach by groups like Good Willsmith to the long-form future mall music of Virtual Dream Plaza. Schulze and the artists in his milieu helped to expand the vocabulary of electronics in experimental music and, eventually, music more generally and in my opinion it’s hard to overstate their influence. Since it is getting more and more affordable for people to obtain synths thanks to software-based synth engines, those interested would do well to immerse themselves in the music of this period if they have not already, both because it is good to understand the history and because it’s a sonic treat.
Nossa Bova comes from Bröselmaschine’s self-titled debut, but is also featured on the excellent Soul Jazz Deutsche Elektronische Musik 2 compilation. Their debut was produced by Rolf Ulrich-Kaiser, who was an influential music critic and label owner in 1970s Germany and who also produced Tangerine Dream’s Zeit as well as Sergius Golowin’s debut record, which was featured as a track of the day a few weeks back. Like Golowin, Bröselmaschine’s founder Peter Bursch was a folklorist who has published a number of books about German folk music as well as guitar instruction books in Germany. Despite vocalist Jenni Schuckes really making the tropical vibe here, she only appeared on this album with the group and as far as I can tell didn’t record anywhere else, which is a shame. I’m gonna take another opportunity to plug that Soul Jazz comp because it is really excellent.
Oren Ambarchi began playing jazz in his native Australia in the mid-1980s as a percussionist, active in the free jazz scene in Sydney. At a session he began messing around with a guitar and from then on it has become a staple in his solo releases and live performances. He described his relationship with the instrument in an interview with Australia Adlib:
I picked it up and starting hitting it with drumsticks and using it in whatever way I wanted to use it in, and one thing led to another. I’m glad I wasn’t trained. I’ve always loved rock music, I grew up listening to pop and rock, so that was in my mind, but I’ve also been interested in electronics. I never wanted to learn to play it properly, it was an object as much as an instrument.
The drive to integrate other electronics with his guitar works and an overall interest in experimentation can be heard on one of his early releases from 1999, Insulation. A shared interest in improvisation and experimentally-driven approaches to composition has led to collaborations with many notable experimental artists like Keith Rowe, Otomo Yoshihide, Jim O’Rourke, and the drone doom duo Sunn O))).
He has collaborated with Sunn O))) on a number of occasions beginning with Black One in 2005. The story goes that Stephen O’Malley was DJing in New York and played Ambarchi’s track Corkscrew and it set off the fire alarm at the venue, prompting O’Malley to reach out and insist on a collaboration. Ambarchi described the artistic relationship between himself, O’Malley, and Greg Anderson–the other half of Sunn O)))–in an interview with Wire magazine:
It’s great being able to work with Stephen and Greg and in some ways doing exactly what I would do in a solo context. However with Sunn O))) I get to do it in a completely different context, to a different audience, and using a much bigger backline. Since I’ve been working with them my solo work has become much slower, lower in the frequency spectrum and much more physical, especially when I perform live. Since I began working with Sunn O))) I’ve learnt a lot about sound pressure, resonance and feedback and how pleasurable it can be to bathe in physical soundwaves.
Sagittarian Domain was released in 2012 on Editions Mego. He’s joined on the release by cellist Judith Hamann, violinist Elizabeth Welsh, and violist James Rushford. You can read more about Ambarchi’s work on his website or peruse his extensive discography on Discogs.
Though Golowin would be lauded primarily for his writing in the area of folklore and esotericism, Golowin turned out a real psych-infused treat with1973’s Lord Krishna Von Goloka. With help from Klaus Schulze (of Tangerine Dream fame),Golowin’s only record certainly captures the blend inviting psychedelia and electronic experimentation, perhaps best on this track. I first heard this release on Soul Jazz Records’ fantastic Deutsche Elektronische Musik 2 compilation. What stands out on this track and others on the album is the blending of acoustic jamming worthy of any flower child with enchanting vocal experimentation. In many ways it reminds me of something like Popol Vuh’s Song of the Earth. Though most versions feature the cover above, check out the cover of the Italian quadrophonic release.
Martin Zeichnete was a sound editor with the state-owned East German film studio, the Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft, when he began hearing the cosmic sounds of Kraftwerk, Neu!, and Can drifting over the Berlin Wall and into his radio. An avid runner, he had the idea of utilizing this new electronic music as training music. After telling a few of his colleagues this idea, he was approached by two state agents and brought to an undisclosed location where they interrogated him for a few hours. To his surprise, they informed him that the project would begin immediately.
From 1972 until 1983 he and a group of other musicians recorded music for East German Olympians in a variety of events, from running to gymnastic floor routines. He also composed ambient music to be played in stadiums before events began. Athletes were some of the first people on the other side of the wall to get Walkmen, which they received specifically in conjunction with what Martin and his associates called Projekt Kosmischer Läufer or “Cosmic Runner.” Though the recordings were technically property of the state, he spirited as many as he could away but assumed the masters were destroyed in the chaos surrounding the fall of the Soviet Union. Luckily an engineer had saved many recordings, and they were released by Unknown Capability Recordings, with Volume 1 coming in 2013 and Volume 2 coming in March of 2014. They just announced that pre-order Volume 3 is available for pre-order. Volume 3 consists of more running tracks along with the soundtrack to an aborted animated film project designed to help an East German bid to host the Olympics. Unknown Capability also has a page with lots of other information about this awesome project, so check it out.
Mathias Grassow has been recording synthesizer music since the mid 80s, where he drew inspiration from fellow German groups like Popol Vuh and Tangerine Dream and began recording a meditative blend of New Age and Krautrock. His first release, At the Gates of Dawn, came out on cassette in 1986. In addition to synth he also records with flute, guitar, and other electronics and while live performances are rare, they are crafted to create an immersive experience.
In this kind of music it’s very important, to have a nice place to play – not normal locations, but more places like a church, caves (remember my ‘Lanzarote concerts’) and open-airs.
I tried to find some pictures of those concerts but was unable to find any, but this video of a performance seems to capture the spirit nicely. In fact a recent concert of his took place at a retreat in Germany where all the guests had just completed a ten day vow of silence! While much of his output consists of solo works, he has released collaborations with Agalloch member John Haugm and Closing the Eternity in addition to projects like Nostalgia and KarmaCosmic. Most if not all his discography his available for streaming/purchase on his Bandcamp page. Those interested in physical releases should head over to Discogs.