Harmonia – “Musik von Harmonia” (1974)

September 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm (Krautrock, Music, Reviews & Articles)

This 2007 review by Sherman Wick comes from the Cosmik website. Harmonia were one of the great Krautrock supergroups featuring members of Cluster and Neu!, and later Brian Eno…

Categories provide simplification and generalization-especially in the music world. Music critics coin countless genres and sub-genres to link music and create connections between artists that actually only tenuously or entirely do not exist. For some groups-in particular, overtly commercial acts-the genres of pop, hip hop, punk, emo-punk, electronica et cetera are, unfortunately, far too appropriate and happily conformed to in order to continue to appeal to their record purchasing demographic. Admittedly, it is possible to excel within a genre-and categories act as a way of simplifying and understanding music. But for groups with exceptional artistic visions, the straightjacket of classification is too claustrophobic of a generalization-since they are not easily pigeonholed and willing to work in tight musical confines.

Harmonia exemplified a group that defied genre. Musik von Harmonia (1974) was the first collaborative effort between Cluster’s Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius and Neu!’s Michael Rother: a German supergroup, and genuine rarity, a colossal artistic success. The three members were skilled keyboard players, guitarists, electronic percussionists and composers. This was a group musically and conceptually miles ahead of its time. They have historically been lumped into the krautrock/kosmische musik genre (which is one of the most talented and forward-looking genres ever named). Among the seminal, disparate acts thrown in this category are: Popol Vuh, Can, Faust, Neu!, Kraftwerk, Amon Düül II, Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream. These groups share only a few common qualities: they are German speaking and creatively combine eclectic music forms of the past and present, especially early electronic, minimalist and avant-garde music. In interviews, the musicians deny a movement ever existed — and that they were scattered maverick groups attempting to overhaul or destroy the contemporary rock context. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cluster – “Qua” (2009)

September 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm (Krautrock, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Pioneering Krautrock electronic wizards Cluster released this, their first new album in 14 years, back in 2009 on the Nepenthe label. This review comes from the Drowned in Sound website, Feb. 22, 2010 and was written by Nick Neyland…

 It’s unlikely any contemporary band would be able to navigate the same Byzantine career turns that Krautrock legends Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius have mapped out over the years. This will be the sixth decade in which they’ve operated as Cluster, or Kluster, as they were originally known. They began with a record deal struck with a religious group who insisted some appropriate sermonizing was included on their recordings, to which Roedelius and Moebius respectfully agreed, then took in collaborations with Brian Eno, Holger Czukay and Michael Rother (in their Harmonia guise) along the way. The third part of the original Cluster triumvirate, Conny Plank, is sadly no longer with us, but the two core members have soldiered on to record Qua, their first album in over a decade, released in the year that the sprightly Roedelius will celebrate his 76th birthday.

Like most of Cluster’s prior output, this is music made within a loose framework, without a discernible beginning or end in sight. Instead, most of the tracks sound like they’ve been transmitted from the pit of a giant, empty, echoing hole, which has been stuffed with the dusty machinery that Roedelius and Moebius love to slave over. It’s a testament to their longevity, and to the evergreen nature of their older recordings, that signifiers of Cluster’s past gurgle to the surface all over the contemporary music scene. Who hasn’t listened to Black Dice or Tortoise or Mouse on Mars and detected fragments of Cluster II or Zuckerzeit in the mix? On Qua, it’s almost impossible to spot who’s influencing who, with Cluster stenciling out new patterns from a familiar blueprint, but also taking on board ideas from their most obvious descendants. Read the rest of this entry »

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Conrad Schnitzler (1937-2011)

September 14, 2011 at 10:03 am (Krautrock, Music, Reviews & Articles, Tangerine Dream)

This obituary was written by Geeta Dayal (author of the Continuum 33 1/3 series book on Eno’s Another Green World) and comes from Frieze blogsite, Aug. 20th, 2011. 
The reclusive Schnitzler was one of the pioneers of German krautrock and experimental electronic music. He was a founding member of Tangerine Dream and Kluster before going solo. Sadly he passed away on Aug. 4th.
Click on the link at the bottom to check out the original posting with some great pictures of Schnitzler…

In the early 1960s, Conrad Schnitzler met Joseph Beuys in a bar in Düsseldorf. Beuys was at the start of his legendary run as a professor of ‘monumental sculpture’ at Düsseldorf’s Kunstakademie. Schnitzler was a sailor, who specialized in fixing the engines of merchant ships in nearby ports. Beuys took a liking to Schnitzler, inviting him to be one of his students. Schnitzler enrolled at the Kunstakademie, but dropped out a year or two later, much to Beuys’ dismay. If, as Beuys famously entreated, ‘everybody is an artist’, why did he have to go to school to be one? Schnitzler travelled for a few years, making metal sculptures and performance art. Then he took the metal sculptures he built during his time with Beuys, which he had covered in stark planes of black and white paint, dragged them all to a grassy field, and left them there.

Schnitzler made his way to Berlin, where he made the transition from sculpture to electronic music. But Conrad Schnitzler – or ‘Con’, as he liked to call himself – never liked to be called a musician; he preferred to use terms such as ‘intermedia artist’. He didn’t really align himself with other artists, either; despite associating with many prominent members of Fluxus, including Al Hansen, he never called himself a Fluxus artist. In 1968, Schnitzler established the legendary Zodiak Free Arts Lab on the Hallesches Ufer in Kreuzberg, the cradle for Berlin’s budding Krautrock scene, but he rarely talked about it in retrospect. He was a founding member of Kluster – the roots of which would become the group Cluster, a few years later – and of Tangerine Dream, but left both groups soon after forming them. Despite releasing nearly 100 records over the course of his career, he never once signed a record contract. In the 1970s, he released a string of increasingly impressive solo records, but at the seeming height of his powers, in the early 1980s, he grew increasingly reclusive, rarely leaving his home in the outskirts of Berlin. In a statement Schnitzler penned in 2001, he wrote: ‘I never leave my hometown. I do l’art pour l’art. I don’t need popularity. I don’t like to answer questions.’ Read the rest of this entry »

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