Irmin Schmidt: Electro Violet

A panoramic, dozen disc tour of the Can founder’s solo catalogue.

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Can founder and keyboard maestro Irmin Schmidt has seen his astonishingly prolific solo endeavours benefit from the odd collection, but never on the scale of the 12 discs gathered here.

Experienced as one body of work (preferably in one sitting!), his half dozen solo albums and six others (drawn from his enormous catalogue of TV and film soundtracks) make for a train ride through a panoramic gamut of styles: cool jazz, classical drama, decadent lounge lizardry and the krautrock scene he helped define all go flying past. The solo stuff starts with 1981’s seminal Toy Planet (created with Swiss musician Bruno Spoerri). The title track takes Stockhausen’s tape manoeuvres and musique concrète techniques as inspiration for a shimmering wall of translucent textures, while the rampant Prophet-5 synth workout Rapido de Noir rides on the taped rhythm of a train. Fearlessly audacious, tracks such as these were the shape of things to come in progressive electronic music. Toy Planet is followed by 1987’s Musk At Dusk and 1991’s Impossible Holidays, which feature Schmidt singing the lyrics of English author Duncan Fallowell (who turned down replacing Damo Suzuki in Can) and former bandmates Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit in the engine room. Fallowell also wrote the libretto for 2000’s colossal Gormenghast: A Fantasy Opera, Schmidt’s magnum opus, which sparked a productive relationship with son-in-law and electronic marauder Jono ‘Kumo’ Podmore. This produced 2001’s Masters Of Confusion and 2008’s Axolotl Eyes, both bolstered by drum ‘n’ bass and trip hop corsets. Then come the supremely atmospheric soundtrack tapestries and tunes, from 1980’s Filmmusik through to 2008’s Palermo Shooting and recent TV work. He has always been renowned as a pioneering master musician, but the sheer barrage of genius soaring and seething within this box is enough to position Schmidt among the giants of the last century.

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!