Switched On – Conrad Schnitzler & Wolf Sequenza: Consequenz II (Bureau B)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Consequenz was a low-budget collaboration in 1980 between Conrad Schnitzler, once of Kluster and Eruption, and drummer Wolfgang Seidel, aka Wolf Sequenza. Its aim was to liberate music from elitist circles, and it set about this with a refreshing freedom. A sequel was commissioned and recorded in 1983/4, and Seidel takes up the story in the record’s press release:

“Certain ‘secret devices’ had materialized in our ivory tower in the meantime. Conrad Schnitzler had purchased an 8-track recorder with money he had earned from ‘proper’ art. I borrowed various bits of equipment from my band – Populäre Mechanik – including a drum computer, so we could really let rip. The little songs we made sounded much more ‘professional’ than the cheerfully low budget music of the first Consequenz. I’d taken days off work for the sessions and after a week we had enough material to fill one side of an LP.’

He continues. ‘All we needed now was music for the B-side, but our enthusiasm for the borrowed drum computer had waned somewhat. It was always the first track we recorded, which meant that everything else had to follow its lead. The beat itself was singularly unimpressed by what came next. This was an unsatisfactory state of affairs for two players (musicians?) who had begun with free improvisation, with either of the participants able to change the direction of the whole thing. Unsatisfactory, in spite of the fact that I was able to play to the beat with perfect timing, which led Conrad Schnitzler to give me the nickname “Sequenza” (hence the Consequenz title). The natural division of an LP into an A-side and a B-side lends itself to a caesura when the disc is flipped. So we decided to return to free-floating sounds on the B-side and, listening back now, I’m glad we did. Instead of competing with each other, the two sides dovetail perfectly.’

What’s the music like?

A fascinating listen to two musicians playing instinctively, Sequenza II has a fresh and incredibly modern sound. Its division into two sides is surprisingly effective too – side A has the sharp shooters, packed with riffs and incident aplenty, while side B is one track alone, Kastilien evolving over nearly 20 minutes into a work of impressive gravitas.

Before that we have Von Hand, firing on all cylinders, and the ping pong exchanges of Zack Zack. There is a friendly charm to a lot of this music, subtle humour coming through in the generation and exchange of ideas, with some regimented beats that speak of the time they were written. Hommage a Gaudi bucks the trend with its squiggly formations, Windmill operates with obscure riffing, while Erotik has a funky profile dancing around its regimented beat.

España won’t be to all tastes, with its coughed up refrains likely to panic in its Covid associations. Just as well, then, that Kastilien follows. By far the most challenging track on the album it is also one of the most liberating, its freedom expressed through increasingly restless and agile synthesizer music as its 20 minutes progress, dissolving in a wall of noise.

Does it all work?

Largely. You have to be in the right mood for Kastilien, but it works really well as a complement to the first side and its chopped up riffing, which proves to be highly enjoyable.

Is it recommended?

It is – and lovers of Krautrock or German electronic music from the 1970s will want to hear it for sure. Conrad Schnitzler continues to prove his worth more than a decade on from his sad passing, and in Wolfgang Seidel he has the ideal foil.

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