Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The glorious tragedy of Wolfgang Riechmann

As rock'n'roll tragedies go, Wolfgang Riechmann is right up there. He was the singer in Spirits Of Sound with Michael Rother (Kraftwerk, Neu!, Harmonia) and Wolfgang Flür (Kraftwerk) in the 60s and had some success with Streetmark in the 70s. He was well enough known that, when he made a solo album, they only needed to put his surname on the album cover.

Yet Wunderbar was unlike everything Riechman had done before: a gorgeous electronic symphony that took the work of Tangerine Dream and Cluster one step forward. Then, two weeks before the album was due to be released, he was murdered by a lone, knife-wielding nutter in a bar. It was as pointless a death as can be imagined. Would Wunderbar be a diversion from his rock career, or the first step on a new electronic career? We'll never know.

Even so, taken on its own merits, Wunderbar is a delicious swarm of symphonic synth-pop: delicate yet optimistic, without the portentousness of Tangerine Dream and looking forward to the British synth-pop of a few years later when the Human League and others synthesised electronic music into a music for the masses. This is some of the warmest electronic music out there.

There are no bonus tracks. This album was perfect the way it was made.


  1. This album is one of my favorites. It is very sad the way the artist died, and I would have wanted to have heard more of his music. There were apparently two men that murdered him, not one, as two were arrested. Going back to the subject of the album, the style of electronic music in Wunderbar is some of the best I've heard, up there with the best of Kraftwerk (The Man-Machine), John Foxx (Metamatic), and Gary Numan (The Pleasure Principle). My favorite pieces are Wunderbar, Silberland, and Abendlicht, but the rest are great as well. I've already listened to Wolfgang Riechmann's collaberation with the band Streetmark, the Dreams/Eileen album from 1977, but who else has albums that sound very close to Wunderbar's style? Thanks.

  2. I bought the album when it was released in 78 in France, Wolfgang was not known here and no one knew he was already dead.
    First time I did not like very much the sound and the melodies (specially the B side).
    But there was something magical in Wunderbar. And times to times I kept listening to it. Not really loving this piece but not being able to discard it...
    I lived a long time with Wunderbar, a bit like Facebook relationship status "it's complicated".
    When I was 16 in 78 Internet was not existing. When something was unknown in your neighbor it was completely unknown...
    Much later, I had the idea to search for Wolfgang to see if he made other albums (I used to buy strange albums that were the only one of the artist so I was not that much surprised).
    And then I discovered Wolfgang was dead of few weeks or months before I bought his album.
    I suddenly felt bad, I was so sad about the death of this guy who "follow me" with his music during more than 2 or 3 decades.
    And since this time I'm always sad when I listen to Wunderbar, like I lost a very old friend.
    Recently I was working on a piece I composed a couple of months ago. I have not noticed it before but sometimes it seemed I can hear Wolfgang singing like in Wunderbar. An effect of my memory and sounds of synths like you can see a dog in the clouds. I'm not mystic !
    But I finally add some vocals, like the one I was "hearing".
    And when it was done, the piece was really sounding in the spirit of Wunderbar.
    Wolfgang is not dead, he is still leaving in our memories and sometimes you can hear him singing in the sound of your synths...

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It's not ground-breaking, but this music is lovely. I hope your music has the same inspiration.