Liner Note Author: Asmus Tietchens.
Translator: Gareth Davies .
As if not wanting to be outdone by Grönland Records' 2015 vinyl box set compiling the complete recorded works of Harmonia, Bureau B fired back in 2016 with a monumental box collecting the first decade's worth of output by Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius' more prolific vehicle, Cluster. All of the material contained in this set is essential listening, as it chronicles the most groundbreaking period of a group who consistently explored new terrain with each successive release. Cluster's experimental nature and innovative approaches to rhythm and melody not only paved the way for techno and ambient music, but played a huge part in influencing the more textural, atmospheric side of rock and pop music as well.
The box begins in the early '70s, as the group evolved from Kluster, its more avant-garde early incarnation with Conrad Schnitzler. Including musical contributions from engineer Conny Plank, Cluster '71 and Cluster II are dark, eerie, and haunting, taking the group as far out into deep space as they would ever go. After moving to a village in West Germany in 1973, Moebius and Roedelius formed Harmonia, a much more accessible, rhythmic group with Neu! founder (and one-time Kraftwerk member) Michael Rother. Cluster's 1974 masterpiece Zuckerzeit combined trippy drum machine rhythms with woozy, pastoral melodies, resulting in a skewed, playful vision of futuristic pop. The recording remains a watershed moment in electronic music, and is easily one of the best albums of the '70s.
Cluster then moved from Brain Records to another visionary German label of the time, Sky Records, and entered their most prolific phase. Albums such as Sowiesoso contain some of their prettiest work, with Roedelius' soothing piano melodies complementing Moebius' pulsating electronics, but still containing an unpredictable, eccentric edge that prevents the music from disappearing into aural wallpaper. Two discs recorded with avowed fan Brian Eno brought Cluster international recognition and acclaim. The albums are among the most eclectic in the Cluster catalog, and they also contain some of their few songs to include vocals, most notably the moving "The Bulldog," which seems like a spiritual cousin to "By This River," a Cluster collaboration that appeared on Eno's Before and After Science.
By 1979, Roedelius had begun to release solo material, and Moebius would follow in the coming years. Produced by former Tangerine Dream member Peter Baumann, Grosses Wasser is one of Cluster's most eclectic albums yet, ranging from pretty keyboard miniatures like "Manchmal" to the epic side-long title track, which contains some of the duo's headiest explorations since their debut. Cluster ended their initial run with 1981's Curiosum, probably the most "quirky" album in their catalog. While not quite as dark and alien as their first two, the album seems to flip the bright, chiming tones of their more accessible albums into strange outer space lullabies. The box concludes with Konzerte 1972/1977, a disc containing two previously unissued recordings in which the duo venture to the outer limits in a live setting. ~ Paul Simpson