I recently found out that German-based ambient musician Klaus Wiese passed away on January 27th. From what I was able to gather, he passed away in his sleep at his girlfriend’s house at the age of 67 in Ulm, Germany. Sad news indeed, but when it’s time to embark on a journey to the spirit world, that is the way to do it. His legacy as an experimental composer will live on.
Wiese’s music fits into the minimalist ambient spectrum of experimental music. Inspired by both Sufism and Mysticism, his works often take the form of dense, spiritual dronescapes; they’re peaceful, but they emit an open heaviness that allows the linkage of the earthbound listener’s own soul and the eternal heavens. His solo discography is overwhelming – just one glance at his Discogs entry will have you reeling – but his collaborative work is also impressive. In addition to appearing on two Popul Vuh releases (Hosianna Mantra & Seligpreisung), he has regularly worked with Al Gromer Khan, Mathias Grassow & Oöphoi.
I’m amazed by how similar a lot of contemporary works in the noise/new age/experimental scene sound to Klaus Wiese’s work. Take the Emerald’s for instance, three young musicians at the top of their game, making super minimal drone music with mostly vintage synths. You could probably take a Wiese track, run it through a filter and distortion pedal and you’d have something sounding very similar to the Emeralds.
I acquired a copy of Klaus Wiese’s Alhambra on cassette for the purpose of reviewing one of his works (you might notice that I only review releases I have a physical copy of). I’m more familiar with his later work, so I chose something closer to the beginning stages of his solo work (not to mention, you can still buy it on cassette), a release from 1986. I believe one of his regular collaborators, Mathias Grassow, is now operating the store on www.klaus-wiese.com.
Alhambra is a suiting title for the work. Wikipedia translates it to “the red one” or the “red fortress” and describes it as “a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish rulers of Granada in southern Spain”. It is a fortress. Two deep drone works comprised of synthesized strings and voice, filtered vocals, reverberations, organ and mandolin make up the whole of the tape. The first, The Violet Rose, is a slowly oscillating drone whose instrumentation hovers around a single note. It is reminiscent of David Parsons’ Sounds of the Mothership, but seems to access another side of the spirit world, among the dense dark forests hidden in the shadows. The other piece is titled The Moorish Princess. It has a similar vibe, but with the addition of passionate female vocals in parts – remember, this is ’86 (this is some serious new f’ing age). I highly recommend the purchase of this album. It’s relaxing, meditative and emotional all wrapped into a nice new age package. Did I mention that you can still purchase this on cassette?