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Music Review: Riechmann – Wunderbar

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Had not Wolfgang Riechmann been cut down in a case of tragic serendipity at the dawn of his solo musical career, he would most like have gone on to join still playing-and-touring Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. He’d certainly had sufficient preparation with his past collaborations with Michael Rother (NEU! & Harmonia) and Wolfgang Flür (Kraftwerk), who went on to form the group Spirits of Sound together. A little later he played with Phönix, and from there went on to record two albums with Streetmark. Many of these musicians and groups were well-known throughout Europe, although Riechmann’s name was and still is relatively unknown outside Europe, and even in Europe.

Wunderbar was Riechmann’s only solo recording, and he didn’t live long enough to even see it released. Perhaps he didn’t even live long enough to see it finished, since we’ll now never know. Riechmann had not known his murderer, who stabbed him in the chest in a fit of blind rage after being thrown out of a bar for being drunk and rowdy. His unknown assailant took out his frustrations on the first person who crossed his path, Riechmann.

After listening to this CD, I can’t help but feel he was not finished with the release. When he died, in 1978, 35:10 was a respectable time for an LP, but to me, some of the pieces sound unfinished, or perhaps simply unpolished. Selections four and five sound to me either finished or very near so, while the four remaining others strike me as being works in progress. They could stand alone, however, with slight modification.

I received a promo copy for this review, missing the liner notes, which were written by a pioneer of German space music, Asmus Tietchens. These notes also include some rare photographs which I’m certain add to the enjoyment of this disc. The music is at times tense, light, lilting, brooding, sinister even. The fourth track contains the unmistakable sounds of a storm approaching; you don’t see the lightning, you don’t hear the thunder, but you know it’s coming. It begins with a mix of brooding, foreboding, even something slightly sinister before easing up later. The fifth track seems to take on an after-the-storm feel, as if one’s surroundings are fresh-scrubbed and smelling of ozone.

None of the six tracks is longer than nine minutes, the shortest a mere one minute and eleven seconds, some pieces taking on a symphonic aura, while others are pure Krautrock or Europop, which all come honestly to Riechmann’s sound, based on his background.

Wunderbar is a reissue of the original 1978 LP, but is still a diamond to be treasured and appreciated. This release is a true classic of the German space scene from the late-1970s, showing vestiges of both the Düsseldorf (Kraftwerk, Neu) and Berlin (Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream) Schools, exhibiting quicksilver-slick, shimmering sounds mixed with gentle rhythms, all melding into a satisfying symphony.

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About Lou Novacheck