Digital synths don’t get a lot of love these days, but the Casio CZ-101 – the electronics manufacturer’s first professional-grade synth – should conjure a lot of nostalgia for those of us who grew up in the 1980s. I’m pretty sure I banged out a few mediocre melodies on one when I was a kid. But this dinosaur is aging himself. True synth wizards, such as Günter Schlienz (a.k.a., Tristan Magnetique and the head of the Cosmic Winnetou enterprise), have unlocked god-mode on the instrument. An ambient music maestro who has achieved mastery over the instrument keyboard’s eight voices is someone to be respected, and so is the instrument itself.
Schleinz is certainly no slouch; his catalogue is lengthy. But his work as Tristan Magnetique, in which he has limited his arsenal to only the CZ-101, is quite beefy in and of itself. His first outing bearing this particular brand was spread across a whopping three cassettes, while this bad boy spans two spools. This is an auteur who understands what the ambient music aficionado wants: a lot of music in lengthy passages to support inner exploration and nocturnal meandering. And this is what we have been given.
The pieces on 2 are nameless, but they each span a side of a cassette. There are distinct movements, and these seem to be bookmarked by interjections of field recordings. For example, the A side begins with at least three or four interwoven voices that take their time to lock onto each other before what sounds like a skittering violin shatters the mystique at around the five-minute mark. This then leads into the next passage of dreamlike drift, peppered with chiming resonances.
If I were to be forced to describe this body of music in a single word, that word would be “tranquil”. There is a decidedly calm vibe present throughout, and it’s definitely refreshing. One feels at ease, even when the sounds stray toward the alien and synthetic. And while the emotional tone is placid, the music is also nuanced and full of interesting ideas. 2 is the ambient genre at its most effective.
There are still copies left of this relaxed masterpiece over at the Cosmic Winnetou Bandcamp, so stray in that direction to fulfill your mind’s need for solace. And we all could use a little bit of solace these days, am I right?