Welcome reanimation of overlooked classics

Few artists defied categorisation as joyfully as Conrad Schnitzler. While his peers sought earnest respect, he made sonic exploration look like fun. After quitting Tangerine Dream and Kluster in the early 1970s, he began a prodigious solo career. By the time of his death in 2011, he left us around 190 albums to sift through.

1986’s “Consequenz II”, made in collaboration with Wolfgang Seidel (aka Wolf Sequenza), is an easy album to love. From the get-go, it stimulates core kosmische pleasure centres and will generously accommodate fans of Cluster at their playful best. Side One’s tracks were built around a drum machine that the duo had on loan for a week.

As opening title ‘Von Hand’ makes explicit, this is music played by humans, its synths swarming around martial handclaps and kick drum. Seidel’s precise, real-time playing led Schnitzler to rechristen him Sequenza, which afforded flexibility, while maintaining structure. The instrument was returned to its owner before commencing Side Two, but it still marries in-the-moment improv to the discipline of Neue Deutsche Welle artists like DAF. In the deluge of Schnitzler’s output, the immediate charm of ‘Consequenz II’ may have escaped notice. This wouldn’t have troubled him, but hearing it afresh is cause for genuine jubilation.

‘Con 84’ possibly wrong-footed Schnitzler’s fanbase in 1984 but it rewards re-examination now. There’s a whiff of Wendy Carlos to these compositions – kind of freak-classical in an electronic toyshop – and a similar air of wide-eyed wonder permeates the music.

The machinery Schnitzler used is unknown to his chroniclers, although, as an avowed non-musician, it’s doubtful he performed this crisp, baroque music in real time. The tracks are snappily short and titled with spacey numbers or dates. ‘X18 (1+2)’ briefly pirouettes like a music-box ballerina. The exception, ‘28.6.84 Blasen’, exceeds seven minutes and miraculously overcomes the impediment of painfully 80s brass sounds. If you’re fond of Open University theme tunes, you’ll find this album a cornucopia of delight.

Schnitzler’s unfettered approach to art production led him to make music that confounded even ardent admirers. These two vivacious records encourage further digging into his very diverse discography.

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