AMN Reviews: Klaus Schulze – Deus Arrakis (2022; Bandcamp)

This posthumous release from legendary composer and synthesist Klaus Schulze (Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Cosmic Jokers) continues his exploration of Frank Herbert’s Dune that began over 40 years ago. It consists of three extended suites that are nothing less than classic Schulze – majestic synth chords with lighter and darker moments, patterns generated by sequencers, and a bit of acoustic instrumentation (cello and voice).

This album was motivated by a conversation Schulze had with Hans Zimmer, the soundtrack composer of the 2021 Dune movie. Zimmer asked for – and was granted – permission to use part of an earlier Schulze piece in the score. This drove Schulze to revisit the desert world of Arrakis.

Osiris begins with windswept synth waves and a gently galloping sequenced rhythm. By part 3, the chording has grown ominous while the sequencing is layered and more cosmic in tone. The piece ends with a lush and cinematic outro.

Seth is probably the weirdest and most interesting suite, though it varies a fair amount over the course of 31 minutes. It kicks off with abstract synth noises. After an interlude with a bouncy rhythm, Schulze turns up the otherworldly sounds again in part 4, this time featuring a cello solo from Wolfgang Tiepold over burbling and chirping synth. Over the following parts, the cello continues with more conventional accompaniment as well as ambient and airy passages.

Der Hauch des Lebens (The Breath of Life) includes subtle vocalizations from Eva Maria Kagermann and gentle synth chording that produces a haunting ambiance. Sequencers are largely absent until part 3. In part 4, the voices are more primitive and guttural, including chants and whispers that contrast with smooth and slow-moving synth tones. The track, and the album, ends with a softer palette of drones and sequences.

Deus Arrakis does an admirable job of evoking the mystery of a desert planet that exhibits an alien ecosystem under its surface, as well as the joys and sorrows of those who live upon it. As a sociopolitical novel masquerading as an adventure story, Dune is one of the richest and (inside joke) most prescient takes on power, charismatic leadership, and religion over the last few decades. Schulze hints at these themes in the album’s darker moments.

It remains to be seen whether there is archival Schulze material that will be released over the coming years. Be that as it may, Deus Arrakis is a fitting end to Schulze’s recorded output – one that represents some of the most iconic and compelling features of his works over the years.