It has been four years since the legendary German electronic music pioneer Conrad Schnitzler has passed away, and I am very sure that at this very moment a person, or more likely, several persons are wondering just where to start with the gargantuan archives he left behind. From the late 60s until his demise he pressed record more than others, and his vast officially released output is surpassed considerably by what has not been released as of yet.
Every music consumer nowadays can only struggle with the amount of music that is returning to attention, and then on top there are all the releases that never were before. Legions of thorough and not so thorough specialized labels handle this output, but they mostly deal with a manageable back catalogue. And then there is Conrad Schnitzler. In retrospect you can take a whole lot of what we are familiar today in terms of electronic music, trace it straight back to what he was doing decades ago, and inevitably put a proto tag on it. And he was doing LOTS of it in his studio, heaping up well deserved credentials in the process, from the very beginning until the very end, day in day out. So how do you approach such a legacy? You need time, for sure. You need dedication, definitely. You need expertise, of course. But you also need an idea how to comprehensibly legitimate all the effort. Probably only Schnitzler himself will remain the only person to ever have heard anything there is, but thankfully he was also helpful to others aiming to reach as far as they could. When m=minimal label head Jens Strüver was granted access to Schnitzler’s audio library in the early 00s he suggested the Con-Struct series, in which Schnitzler’s archive would be constructed into new compositions by other musicians, and Schnitzler agreed to it. The first installment was handled by Strüver and Christian Borngräber, followed by Kreidler’s Andreas Reihse after Schnitzler’s death.
It is important to note that the series is not meant to be a tribute to finished recordings by means of remixing. The history of electronic music is littered with unnecessary remix compilations. Don’t get me started. But of course there are rules to the exception, where the remix is as advanced as the landmark music it is remixing. On the top of my head I would like to mention LFO’s version of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s „La Femme Chinoise“. And the main reason I am thinking of this particular remix is that for me it is a fine example for the ideal combination of source material and the remixer’s own artistic signature. Both YMO and LFO have their merits, and with this pairing, they multiply (pun alert). More often than not reworks are disrespectful to the original, because they are too respectful, thus watering down the originality of what they are reworking, resulting in a mere convenience product. But as mentioned, free interpretations are not the main idea behind the Con-Struct series, let alone remixes, but Schnitzler sure would not have been content with just being flattered by other artists, however weighty his artistic persona.
Which directly leads me to the third Con-Struct album, curated and rearranged by none other than Kurt Dahlke, better known as Pyrolator and member of German electronic Post Punk miracle Der Plan. Though of a later generation than Schnitzler, for me Dahlke is another seminal pioneer of electronic music. He knew his Buchla and his numerous other synths and devices and what to do with it, and I am totally convinced that his impact should never be underestimated, and may later be con-structed itself. An inspired choice. In his own words, Dahlke wanted to „present a side of Conrad which I had always heard in his music but one which often goes unnoticed: a darker, technoid side. In my opinion, Conrad has always been one of the great pioneers of classic Berlin techno music.“ Well, upon hearing the album the proto can again be tagged, to techno this time. This may not be drone plus kick thunder usually associated with the city’s current according club soundtrack, it is more of the 90s kind, when a plethora of sounds permeated the scene, imported or locally grown, and folders were still closed. As that is what makes pioneering days so exciting, and so easy. Nothing is settled. It will be eventually, but not right now. Let’s explore every idea we have. Which makes this album so enthralling, as both Schnitzler and Dahlke supposedly went through such a phase several times throughout their career. So on the one hand you have Schnitzler’s lifelong love of musical adventure and his ability to anticipate represented with Dahlke’s selection, on the other hand you hear Dahlke’s musical preferences and signatures reflected. „I must admit, I could not resist the temptation to add one or two of my own ideas. The original tracks were so inspiring, I just had to.“, Dahlke measures his input. Frankly, I am more of a Dahlke than a Schnitzler scholar, but I sense understatement.