Johannes Schmoelling

Audio technician, composer and keyboard player Johannes Schmoelling was a key member of pioneering German electronic band Tangerine Dream from 1980-85. Upon joining, he immediately brought a slicker production sheen to their 70's sound, working with some of the earliest digital synthesisers to expanded the range of tonal colours in Tangerine Dream's music.

artist:
Johannes Schmoelling

country of origin:
Germany

style(s):
Electropop, ambient trance, synthpop, Berlin school, Krautrock

decades active:
80's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Wuivend Riet (1986, Erdenklang)
  • White Out (2000 version, Viktoria Park)

with Loom:

  • Scored (2011, Viktoria Park)

Reviewed by Mike G

Audio technician, composer and keyboard player Johannes Schmoelling was a key member of pioneering German electronic band Tangerine Dream from 1980-85. Upon joining, he immediately brought a slicker production sheen to their 70's sound, working with some of the earliest digital synthesisers to expanded the range of tonal colours in Tangerine Dream's music. He also brought more variation to the structure of their longer compositions, as can be heard on masterful TD albums like Logos (1982) and Poland (1984).

Solo albums

His fine solo debut Wuivend Reit (1985) was recorded shortly after his departure from the group. The first half contains four varied and tautly constructed pieces of ambient electro-pop that are infinitely quirkier and more interesting than anything on his last recording with Tangerine Dream, the wretched Le Parc (1985). With its murmuring, shuffling machine groove and flourishes of piano, the stunning "Matjora Is Still Alive" aches with a beautiful urban melancholy. The album's second half contains the long two-part suite "Wuivend Reit" which was composed for a theatre production, the title being Dutch for "wind blown reeds". Distinguished by his highly creative use of marsh sounds and other digital samples and climaxing with a bright, epic folk melody, it shows his previously undemonstrated abilities with sound collage in the vein of avant-garde maestro Karl Stockhausen.

Despite such an impressive solo debut, Schmoelling's subsequent albums and film soundtracks have been infrequent and mostly mediocre. An exception is White Out (2000), originally recorded in 1990 but re-released 10 years later with extra tracks and subtle changes to the sound. A good album originally, an even better one now. White Out is not far in style from Wuivend Reit and the theme of Arctic landscapes and exploration is well suited to Schmoelling's airy, crisp sound. Close inspection also reveals how different this is to most "environmental" music. His samples of radio transmissions and wildlife sometimes appear in unexpected patterns; and his suspended string backdrops and chord progressions segue between melody and abstraction with unusual skill, particularly the jazzy electro impressionism of the title track. The album closes with "Ice Walk 2000", a lush remix that gives a surprising nod to 90's trip-hop with its soaring keyboard motifs above and the brittle, crunchy breakbeat below.

Loom

In 2010 Schmoelling formed the trio Loom with Berlin e-musician Robert Waters and ex-Tangerine Dream member and guitarist Jerome Froese.

This proved to be a creative renaissance as well as a real treat of fans of classic TD sounds Of the two albums and two ep's released up to 2016, the band is at its best on the superb double live album Scored (2011). The tracklist mixes TD classics, Froese and Schmoelling solo material, and new pieces written under the Loom banner. Texturally, Loom's sound is a heady mix of early-to-mid 80s' TD, ethereal synthpop, panoramic film music and dance music-savvy drum programming. The pick of Schmoelling's best post 80's solo material can be found on Scored, including the rock-inflected synthpop stunner "Time & Tide" on which he and Froese trade soaring solos on synth and electric guitar.

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