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Günter Schickert – Nachtfalter

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A dark and uncompromising vision from a Krautrock pioneer

Image of Günter Schickert – Nachtfalter

(bureau b, out Fri 15 Feb 2019)

Günter Schickert has had an interesting career. Having initially come to prominence in the Krautrock scene with influential, albeit not of the same profile of many of his contemporaries, solo records Samtvogel (1975) and Uberfallig (1980) he then largely fell off the map with his next solo effort not appearing to decades later. Not that this was due to any Syd Barrett style seclusion but simply him concentrating on making music in theatre productions. Schickert has significantly increased his output of late, with this album being his fourth in the last six years.

Nachtfalter, like most of Schickert’s output, is a disquieting and claustrophobic record full of nightmarish soundscapes. As such the LP takes several listens to appreciate. All the jagged rhythms and jarring instrumentation can seem too much on the first attempt. Even after several attempts, some tracks remain inaccessible with the likes of Wohin sounding like a computer having an anxiety attack. Also, the shortest track on the album, Floor, is 100 seconds of what sounds like someone tuning the bagpipes, but overlaid with what appear to be sleigh bells, for reasons unknown.

All of which makes this instrumental record seem like pretentious avant-garde experimentation for the sake, which it’s not. There is plenty to admire here, particularly the skill of Schickert’s guitar playing. He employs his patent echo-guitar sound throughout, most notably on the tracks Ceiling and Flugelschlag – the former being the most overtly Krautrock cut on the album and one that feels slightly Carpenter-esque feel too. It is a pulsating juggernaut of a track. The latter meanwhile is a ten plus minute epic which provides a departure point from the rest of the work as Schickert’s guitar positively shimmers. The song offers a ray of light relief in amongst the dark atmosphere which permeates this recording.

From the remaining pieces in this seven-track collection it is closer Reflections of the Future that stands out the most. Once again it is a weird instrumental which has the atmosphere of a Carpenter theme, glitchiness of a Squarepusher track and if that weren’t enough, some pipes that sound like train whistles to give it a truly otherworldly feel. Ultimately though, while not everything works here, Nachtfalter should be taken as a whole, resembling as it does the soundtrack to a lost art-house sci-fi film.

The average listener might find this long player baffling and impenetrable, while a handful of enthusiasts may think it masterly. The truth is probably somewhere in between.