Beyond the Galaxy (1999, 65.37) ****/TTTT½Beyond the Galaxy
The Gate of Lahore Part 1
The Gate of Lahore Part 2
Wanderers of Time
Shiva Connection (2000, recorded 1977-99, 73.55) ***½/T½Shiva Connection
A Few Miles Beyond Infinity
Electric Trick (2005, recorded 1978-2003, 69.14) ***½/TTimeshift
The Gate of Bihar
Floating in Time
Further Beyond the Galaxy
Space Gems: Vintage Rarities of the 70s (2007, recorded 1975-79, 62.00) ***½/TTT
Passing Jupiter By
Die Kosmiche Abfahrt
Outerspace Gems (2008, recorded 1978-85, 60.48) ***½/TTT½Up to the Stars
Black Hole Magic
Hypernova: Vintage Rarities of the 70s and 80s Vol. 3 (2009, recorded 1977-83, 61.29) ***½/TTTLonging for the Space
Requiem for a Dying Star
Floating in Time
Astral Journey (2010, recorded 197?-199?, 62.21) ***½/TT½The Call of Gullu
|10" (2014) ***/½
Space-Disco (1978 Original)
'Cosmic' Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock was a veteran of the electronic music scene, spending most of the '80s leading Mind Over Matter, who produced several albums, all bursting with Mellotron. In fact, at one time or another, Klaus has owned at least 26 different Mellotrons, of all models, although he now, unbelievably, owns none, preferring his multi-sampled 'Megatron'. However, his first album as Cosmic Hoffmann (that's very apt, Klaus!) features The Real Thing, with a nice picture on the back of him playing an M400.
Now, much as I like this area of the electronic scene, I find it difficult to review objectively, as I tend to use it as background music and quickly get bored if I listen to it too closely. Saying that, Beyond the Galaxy is a fine album, indistinguishable (to my ears) from its '70s influences and all the better for it. Most of the modern, computerised EM I've heard has quickly sent me to sleep, I'm afraid, but Klaus has produced a warm, organic album bursting with vitality and real playing. Remember that? Unlike some other practitioners of the art, there's no real dissonance here, but it's quite intense in places, so it's certainly not purely a chill-out experience, although it can work on that level too.
There's Mellotron all over the thing, of course. The lengthy title track doesn't feature any until about 12 minutes in, when the strings swell up in the loud section in their usual majestic fashion, carrying on into the subsequent lull. The Gate Of Lahore Part 1 is a gentle, rhythmless piece, with swathes of strings and flutes all over it and Part 2 has some quite unique echoed strings that I haven't heard anyone else do in quite the same way. Howling Wolves is a more rhythmic piece, though slower than Beyond The Galaxy, with not only the rather ubiquitous strings, but some nice phased choir, too. Wanderers Of Time is the other lengthy piece contained herein and is again relaxed and drifting, pretty much evoking its title in music, with loads more strings and the odd burst of flute chording.
The following year, Shiva Connection appeared, recorded in 1977, '94 and '99, meaning, I presume, that only the older tracks feature real Mellotron. The music is very similar to that on its predecessor, unsurprisingly, to the point where the uninitiated probably couldn't tell the two albums apart; not sure I can, tell the truth... The '77 track, Lightstar Rising, sounds pretty much exactly like those recorded over twenty years later, so at least you can't fault Klaus on the consistency front. The more recent material is co-written with Ramp's Stephen Parsick, a man known to use a Mellotron when he can get his hands on one, although I'm pretty sure the four newer tracks here utilise Klaus' Megatron, although the opening title track has no obvious recording details. Very little Mellotron, too, for that matter. As far as the older tracks go, Lightstar Rising has some distant flutes, while '94's A Few Miles Beyond Infinity has more of the same and a more overt string part towards the end of the piece.
2005 brought the third release under Klaus' nom de plume, Electric Trick, mostly recorded between 1998 and 2003, although two tracks date from 1978. The recent material is exactly what you'd expect, unsurprisingly, although the two early pieces are far murkier and organic-sounding, again as you'd expect. The bulk of the material's sequencer-driven, while Floating In Time and Carina Cygnus are far more ambient, their rhythmic elements being limited to long repeats from a delay unit. Klaus utilises his spacey guitar style on a few tracks, notably Further Beyond The Galaxy, but overall, this is a synth album more than anything. How much real Mellotron are we hearing here? Hard to say, innit? Both 1978 tracks feature some with murky choirs on Sehr Mystisch and equally murky choirs and strings on Floating In Time, with (presumably) samples on a couple of tracks from 2000-2001 and nothing obvious on Carina Cygnus, apparently recorded at the same time as Beyond the Galaxy.
Klaus released three archive discs in a short space of time (space and time? How appropriate), the first being 2007's Space Gems: Vintage Rarities of the 70s (recorded 1975-79). The album contains a real mixture of styles, presumably recorded at a variety of sessions in a number of studios (unless they're home recordings?), running the gamut from martial synth music (opener Rooftop High) through Schulze-esque whooshy ambient (Mystic Winds), propulsive sequencer work (er, Sequencer), synth-rock (Wüstenschiff) and the almost poppy, Jarre-esque Spaceneighbours. Less Mellotron than you might expect, with major cello and string parts all over opener Rooftop High, distant flutes (and choir?) on Sequencer, strings on Wüstenschiff, strings and flutes on the sparse (and fittingly-titled) Opera Mellotronique, distant flutes, strings and choirs on Die Kosmiche Abfahrt and, finally, upfront flutes on closer Windvogel. Which is actually quite a lot, isn't it?
The following year's Outerspace Gems (material from 1978-85) is a less diverse collection, sticking mainly to 'straight' Tangs-esque EM, although I don't remember that outfit doing anything as offbeat as Cosmic ChaCha. Although there's not a jot of Mellotron on the first three tracks, Klaus doesn't let up from there on: Galaxy Rising is, effectively, a full-blown strings/choir/flute solo, with ethereal strings and choirs on Spacewards, strings on Magellanic Cloud, flutes and echoed strings on Attic Music and volume-pedalled strings on Cassini Division, while although the drifting choirs on closer Black Hole Magic sound sampled (early '80s by now?), the strings sound like the Mellotron string section tapes.
Finishing this burst of archive releases, 2009's Hypernova: Vintage Rarities of the 70s and 80s Vol. 3 (1977-83) carries on in the same vein as its immediate predecessor, the only even slight dissenter being Cosmic Garden, which contains the one example of Klaus' guitar playing on these albums, a clean, picked part backing up the synths, shifting into a clean, echoed lead line later on. Most tracks here have a slight feel of 'also-rans' about them, sadly, although Cosmic Hoffmann fans won't be disappointed. Several Mellotron tracks (of course), with strings and choirs on opener Longing For The Space, a string/flute mix on Requiem For A Dying Star, a fractured flute melody on the aptly-titled Hypnotic, strings on Floating In Time and all over Star Riders, plus a string variant (and brass?) on closer Mercury.
2010's Astral Journey was recorded 'between the '70s and the '90s', giving us little idea of when individual tracks may have been laid down. The music veers towards the lighter end of the genre, a nice touch being Javier Martinez' Rhodes on the jaunty Spaceflight, an instrument rarely heard in electronic music. Klaus' Mellotrons are all over the album, with choirs and strings on The Call Of Gullu, echoed flute melodies and strings all over Medusa's Hair, strings on Galactic Opera, rich, layered choirs on Orbiting Neptune and heavily phased string chords on Supernova, making this one of the more Mellotron-heavy of Klaus' archive releases.
2014's Space-Disco 10" appears to be a re-recording of a late '70s track, all disco beats, string synths and squalling monophonics, heard in its original, 1978 form on the flip. This version utilises Rhodes and Solina alongside a throbbing, sequenced monophonic line, throwing a surprisingly high-speed, tape-delayed Mellotron string line into the mix, possibly doubled with Solina. Frankly, it's so overlaid with other stuff that Hoffmann Mellotron completists can quite safely ignore this, I suspect.
Well, I don't really feel like I've really reviewed the music on these albums, to be honest, only their Mellotronic content, but if you're into this stuff to any degree, I can wholeheartedly recommend Beyond the Galaxy, although Shiva Connection and Electric Trick seem to be less of the same.
Klaus' two-track collaboration with Hans-Werner Faßbender (nothing to do with film director Hans-Werner Fassbinder, who died in 1982) is, effectively, one long meditative piece, all drifting synths and Mellotron samples. Pleasant, but more for relaxation than serious listening.
See: Mind Over Matter