In the bad old strange days we would lay on the floor after consuming some sort of organic vegan mash that we had concocted and attempt to stay as still as possible and listen to Irrlicht by Klaus Schulze. And this was in the days before vegan was hip. It was probably closer to vegetarian if I am honest, as who can give up cheese really? We would lay side by side in our baggy hemp clothing smelling of patchouli and incense and let the drone and waves wash over us. I had found the record in the classical section of the library and was drawn to the cover. I had no idea what to expect but the strange alien creature on the cover stood out in the classical section, I discovered as I looked it over at checkout it had been misplaced and belonged with the other Schulze in the electronic music section. This was 1985 and for everyone else this was the year of Born in the USA, Hounds of Love and Brothers In Arms, for us it was the strange beauty of Irrlicht that dominated the year.
About halfway through the first week we bought a C120 cassette as that way we could get the whole album on one side, so we recorded the whole thing twice both sides of that strange ethereal music that was literally so dense it would pin you to the ground, turn your head inside out and have your ears leaking fluids into the carpet. The we took the record back to the library.
Several times friends came to our flat during this ritual and would attempt to understand the attraction. I was convinced that Klaus Schulze was a synthesizer genius ahead of everyone else. I would point this out and they would roll their eyes and ask to hear Eliminator instead. I would try and convince them to lay still on the floor and truly feel it and they insisted on going out for beer and a curry. Philistines all, although most of the time we went along as we could always come back and listen.
Our problem in deciphering the genius of Irrlicht was that the sleeve notes were in German and neither if us could read it. This was also in the days before the internet and we had no way of researching the album, we could have maybe used the library but I think we had given up reading books as bourgeoise at the time and only used it to enhance our musical diet. It was only in the last twenty years or so as computers became more common and the internet a real thing that I learned that no synthesizers were used making the album and this messed up album was made with a broken organ, a broken amp a cassette player and a recording of an orchestra rehearsal that had been manipulated beyond the bounds of reasonableness or sanity.
At some point that cassette went away, we drifted apart and I almost forgot about Irrlicht. However once it’s in your head that music is always going to come back and it did, first streamed and then one night as I scrolled through the ridiculously priced Schulze album I found someone in Germany selling a new one for nine dollars with free shipping. With a certain sense of doubt and faith in PayPals refund policy i bought it and waited almost a month for it to arrive. When it did I was so happy to see that same strange creature reclining on an alien landscape. In honor of the past I lay on the floor as the record played, this time it was the dog laying next to me and I swear I could smell patchouli and lentils and cumin.
Still Irrlicht is an album that will make you sit still and listen. It is completely engrossing and will demand your attention, the odd thing is that each time you play it you will be connecting with a different sound, passage our journey. It’s terrifying, beautiful captivating and disturbing and may be the strangest thing you will ever listen to. It requires attention and will reward that attention. It will however drive many others away screaming demanding that it never be played again in their presence or even when they are nearby.
I am aware the sleeve that I first got and have searched out is not the original one, but it is the sleeve I connect with the album and if I had the original I would actually be disappointed. This is the picture that drew me to the record and the image I will always associate with it. I think it perfectly describes the strange beauty of the record.