An exceptional batch of space disco gems from the ’80s electronic duo.
Private Records has this amazing ability to track down and reissue material I’ve truly never heard of, pairing these choices with deluxe packages demonstrating exactly why the label went to the trouble of finding such delightfully obscure collections. Such is the case with Schaltkreis Wassermann’s SKW, a collection of singles, B-sides, and things which didn’t make their 1982 album, Psychotron.
Like the best releases from Private, such as the Let’s Go Into Space series of compilations, this is full-on space disco, loaded with four-on-the-floor rhythms made to get on down. It’s minimal, but the duo of Stella and PJ Wassermann did a lot with just two people and an ARP2600 (as well as a couple other bits of electronic gadgetry).
Evidently, the LSD they did in Albert Hoffman’s house worked wonders, because SKW swirls and winds back on itself repeatedly, in alternating interstellar swirls (such as “Fly,” punctuated with cleverly funky guitars buried deep in the mix) or metronomically-perfect bits of clean synth pop, which would do Kraftwerk proud (like the manically-pulsing “Hyperspace”). Every so often, something like “Space Symphony” combines the two, and it’s the most lovely weird thing you’ve heard in a while.
The version of Booker T & the MGs “Time is Tight,” which ends the first disc, is as delightfully creative a reinvention of the MGs’ sound as their McLemore Avenue album was of the Beatles’ Abbey Road. The only real misstep on the album is the 1981 single, “Sex is Out,” which failed to grab me, and had me dropping the needle on the track which follows it, “Vierspur,” instead. That song is a propulsive bit of electronic wizardry which wouldn’t be out of place in a video game like Outrun.
The album closes with “Love in Space,” which brilliantly presages much of the New Romantic synth pop dominating the airwaves just five years hence. In the right hands, this could’ve been the vanguard of what the Thompson Twins and Kajagoogoo would ride to a couple of years of stardom, but sadly, this music languished. Here’s to hoping this release shines a light on the music of Schaltkreis Wassermann as they deserve.
There’s absolutely no hiss to this collection, and while it might be just ever-so-slightly muddy on a few tracks — “Love in Space,” in particular, sounds a little muted — overall, the tone is perfectly clear. There’s not as much low end to SKW as on past Private Records releases, but it suits the music rather well. While massive thump might work for the likes of Black Devil, Schaltkreis Wassermann does better soaring than getting underground.
The glossy gatefold sleeve’s color scheme is an eye-popping neon pink and cyan combination on the front, with the tracklisting and personnel on the rear in neon pink and white. The gatefold image is a suitably mysterious image of the duo. The LPs come in poly-lined paper sleeves.
A digital download is included. The LPs are on translucent cyan vinyl, nicely complementing the artwork on the jacket, as well as on the LSD blotter paper that comes as a bonus. The blotter looks so authentic, I’m frankly astonished the record made it through customs. The strange masked creature between Stella and PJ in the accompanying poster is frightening, and I’m assuming the included reproduction press clippings are illuminating, but they’re in German.
SOUND QUALITY - 88%
PACKAGING - 85%
MUSIC - 85%
EXTRAS - 92%
Once again, Private Records create a fun package that compliments the excellent rediscovery housed within.
written by Nick Spacek