Audio Remasterer: Jonas Förster.
Liner Note Author: Asmus Tietchens.
Recording information: Osaka (06/1996); Tokyo (06/1996).
Editor: Jonas Förster.
Translator: Gareth Davies .
Foundational Krautrock group Cluster, in the form of its core duo Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, embarked on two separate tours in 1996 before falling into what would be a decade-long hiatus. Early in the year, the band did select dates in Japan, and followed up later the same year with a tour of the United States, with performances from both tours captured in full. While both tours were made up of improvisations, the band took on different forms for each leg, embracing a darker, noisier approach on the U.S. dates and offering more patient, introverted soundscapes during their performances in Japan. That's not to suggest Japan Live is without darkness or consists of fluffy new age music. The 11-minute album opener sprawls out slowly, with synths droning and a muted pulse inching the foreboding sheets of sound along. Digital bell and chime sounds intermingle with percussive patterns throughout the album, unfolding gracefully on some tracks and with more tension on tracks like "Japan Live 5." The entire album is pulled from just three shows -- two in Osaka and one in Tokyo, with only the cosmic lurch of "Japan Live 3" surfacing from the Tokyo gig. Without necessarily being gentle, there is a more subdued feel throughout Japan Live, with the duo seeming to stretch out more freely, interact more playfully, and generally take it easier than the sometimes antagonistic tones of the U.S. tour that followed just months later. ~ Fred Thomas