INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Resident Advisor SEPTEMBER 23, 2009 - by Todd L. Burns
HARMONIA & ENO '76: TRACKS AND TRACES
Timing is everything. When Brian Eno met the trio of Hans Joachim Roedelius, Michael Rother and Dieter Moebius in 1974, he promised he'd come to visit them at their country home in Forst, Germany where they'd been recording together as Harmonia. It took him more than two years and, by the time he called them, Harmonia had effectively broken up. Each member was working on - or had completed - a solo album. But when Eno comes calling, you tend to find space in your schedule to see what might happen.
That was the mentality of Harmonia, at least, who collectively admired both the UK pop star's work as part of Roxy Music and his solo albums, Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and Another Green World. But despite the numerous reels of tapes that were recorded, no music from the legendary meeting between Eno and the trio surfaced until the late '90s. And that was only after Roedelius retrieved the tapes from Eno, and fashioned a version of the sessions that approximated what might have been released at the time - had the group cared to put it out. (And, considering Harmonia's lack of commercial success, found a record company willing to do so.)
But the late '90s version of Tracks And Traces was a flawed artefact. Michael Rother had plenty of tapes of his own. Sketches, mostly, and only on cassette tape, which was unsuitable for release until digital technology allowed him the ability to clean them up. And the track-listing was odd. As ambient as any of their previous work, the release began with the crackling proto-industrial thump of Vamos Campaneros. In this reissue it sits in third position, eased into place by the wandering guitar of Welcome and Atmosphere's muffled drum machine lightly ushering us into the album.
From there, things stay largely the same, with the notable addition of Aubade, which sounds like space disco without the disco attached. In between, highlights remain the aforementioned Vamos Campaneros, the unpredictable ambience of Weird Dream, Eno's haunting vocal on Luneburg Heath and the Forst-specific field recording-laden By The Riverside. Most of it is idyllic, and most of it is extraordinarily ahead of its time. But what makes Tracks And Traces so fascinating isn't its historical value. It's that the experiments conducted by Eno, Roedelius, Rother and Moebius here still sound great. Assuredly probing the reaches of their respective talents, this is the sound of four legends at their artistic peak finding new forms of expression, finally presented properly.