Günter Schickert, four decades of multi-instrumental cosmic explorations, under Berlin's sky, above genres, and compromises.
It was memorable the time when I firstly listened to his debut LP of 1974, the monumental Samtvogel. It overwhelmed me with layers of echoing guitars roaring into space, causing a powerful release of dopamine spreading through my skin, in the way an “Interstellar Overdrive”, or a Richard D James Album would do. It was a proof of the divine to discover Günter Schickert, it is a profound honour today to present on Marmo his seventh album to date, Labyrinth, the first to be released on vinyl format since 1983`s Kinder In Der Wildnis.
Schickert's Samtvogel, self-published first, then licensed to Brain, equaled the imaginative leap and sonic power of the early Pink Floyd, Manuel Gottsching's Inventions For Electric Guitar or A.R. & Machines's Die Grüne Reise. What followed, from his second LP Überfällig on Sky Records to his collaborations with Klaus Schulze, Jochen Arbeit and Schneider TM, even if little acclaimed, spans a large spectrum of music styles, always through a distinctive and personal aesthetic, that is deeply linked to the one he firstly crafted back in '74, when Schickert pioneered the use of echo effects applied to guitar playing.
And now Labyrinth, a record that stands for versatility, where genres do not matter, soundscapes or life situations take over, song-writing emotions pop out, handing out a spectrum of surprises to the listener. You may find yourself flying low along steep cliffs and with a blink of eye you are thrown into a Middle Eastern scenery.
The album is divided into two parts, two different production bulks and periods of Günther Schickert’s life. Side A features a selection of tracks recorded in 1996, appearing on the 2012 album HaHeHiHo, released via Pittsburgh based VCO Recordings, on a limited press of 100 units, tape format only. I felt that the visionary and emotional richness of these pieces deserved the vinyl format and a chance to reach to a wider audience.
The Raga-inspired “Morning” opens Labyrinth with exotic charm and bitter-sweet nostalgia. “Sieben” kicks off with the same guitar scales of the previous theme, before the motorised progressions of a Korg MS-20 synth surprisingly storm in, carrying along an intersecting multitude of filters and sharp guitar effects, flowing into an epic, paradisiac ending. “Ninja Schwert” remains on astral dimensions, it is a struggle of cosmic forces, where the steady ride of a pounding beat gets embraced by different guitar layers and analogue electronic filtering. The side closes up with “HaHeHiHo”, a slow ballad featuring Mr. Schickert on vocals, guitar, bass guitar and drum machine - an example of simple, stripped down yet gifted songwriting that is capable to reach the heart of the listener.
Side B contains material produced between 2007 and today. The intricate, bewildering “Tsunami” shows the multi-instrumental and recording abilities of Günter Schickert: a field-recorded storm with mesmerising powers, a peculiar progressive approach to guitar playing. Mysterious sinister spirits and sounds are emerging and the feeling of being lost in a pleasant trance arises. In contrast, “Oase” muffles the intensity and jumps into a completely different soundscape, where in liaison with the sounds of a rolling drum tom and a desert-like trumpet, the microphone carefully captures the found sound tones of everyday-life objects and actions. Like “HaHeHiHo“ on side A, “Checking” represents the vocal gem of the B side, in a raw and direct way of songwriting like if Syd Barrett was his invisible helper. “Palaver” (which means “unnecessarily talk” in German) assembles different vocal recordings of Schickert into a bizarre free-style conversation through a mysterious language, where he attempts to emulate illiterate children conversating. The final track, “Morning (Slide)”, reprises the opening theme, this time solely performed through the caressing dilated sounds of Günter's slide guitar.