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Harmonic Ascendant - Robert Schroder

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    In late 1978 Klaus Schulze became friends with Robert Schroder who started out to be an electronic engineer and then became a full time musician. With his skills he built custom synthesizer modules and electronic musical instruments and used them in his original music. With Klaus Schulze mentoring him and producing his first album Harmonic Ascendant, Schroder created an album of electronic beauty while retaining organic musical qualities. Retaining Wolfgang Tiepold on cello and Udo Mattusch on guitar, Harmonic Ascendant's 3 musical pieces offer an emotional experience within an electronic foreground.
    Track Listings:
    A Harmonic Ascendant 22:14
    B1 Future Passing By 9:17
    B2 The Day After X 11:41
    Artist Name(s):
    Robert Schroder
    Producer(s):
    Klaus Schulze
    Release Year: 1979
    Style:
    Ambient, Berlin
    Album Type:
    Studio
    Formats:
    Compact Disc, Digital / Download, LP 33 1/3
    Cover & Packge Design:
    Sawmi Deva Anbaddha
    Studio Name:
    Panne/Paulsen Studio
    Mastering: SST Brüggemann GmbH
    Engineer(s): Eberhard Panne
    Label / Publishing
    Label Name:
    Innovative Communication
    Catalog Number(s):
    IC 58 087
    Location:
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Sources
    Editions / Reissues
    1. AN-2100 Russia Unknown
    2. Base Record KS 80033 Italy 1982
    3. Da Music CD 873015-2 Germany 1996
    4. Innovative Communication KS 80 033 Germany 1982
    5. News-Music NEWS CDR-12.001 Germany 2008
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Michael Hodgson

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Initially starting out as an electronic engineer, German artist Robert Schröder devoted himself fully to music by 1978, resulting in his fascinating debut album `Harmonic Ascendant' a year later. Despite the album sharing sounds in common with other artists working in what became known as the Berlin School style of vintage Seventies electronic music, his debut is remarkably original and fully formed with a distinctive voice all its own. In addition to subtle influences of Klaus Schulze (who's producing credit here will likely be an instant point of note for many listeners), if anything Mike Oldfield's `Tubular Bells' is a gentle inspiration as well, as Schroeder incorporates a diverse range of instruments such as acoustic guitar, piano and cello into his lush drifting soundscapes, creating a very grounded musical environment compared to his cosmic-bound compatriots.

It's a couple of minutes before the side-long title track `Harmonic Ascendant' even reveals its electronics, instead opening with a gently melancholic piano and guest contributor Udo Mattusch's acoustic guitar theme. Slowly but surely electronic veils carefully begin to lift in prominence, almost taking in a wistful classical symphonic elegance, guest Wolfgang Tiepold's cello groaning sadly to life as synths waver in quivering, aching ecstasy. The cello begins to prance stirringly, delicate subdued sequencer trickles seeping in as the piece begins to grow in drama and presence, with a trilling little Moog tease in the final moments followed by a Rick Wright-like sombre yet warm solo piano close both welcome surprises to end on.

The second side holds two unrelated extended pieces, yet both are initially built around similar mumbling Vocoder recitations that take on a vague hypnotic quality. Whirring and buoyant synth washes and fizzing ripples unfold around those robotic rambles in `Future Passing By', eventually joined by a commanding Mellotron choir rising in heavenly majesty. Confident cascading synth caresses spiral over `The Day After X', ringing sequencer chimes and upfront hypnotic soloing duelling back and forth in between a maddening Vocoder psalm.

While the first side is the superior of the two, this is still a fully-inspired, dazzling release (and that beautiful cover painting from Swami Deva Anubaddha looks especially enticing on vinyl), made even more impressive by its minimal approach and careful subtlety. `Harmonic Ascendant' achieves a fascinating unison between electronic and acoustic elements that makes it truly stand out amongst the colder, deep-space explorations more commonly found in the vintage era of the progressive-electronic genre, and Berlin School followers looking for a unique interpretation of the style should investigate this one immediately.

Four stars.

(This review first appeared on the Prog Archives site on 16th April, 2016)

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