Getintothis JULY 22, 2015 - by Harry Sumnall


Dieter Moebius, Krautrock forerunner with Harmonia and Cluster has died, Getintothis' Harry Sumnall leads a pays tribute while drawing on his inspirational music which would shape generations.

The music of Dieter Moebius, who has died suddenly at the age of seventy-one, spanned six ever changing decades.

As one of Germany's most important avant garde musicians, his prolific and varied experimentations led to some of the key works of modern music. His music and collaborations were impossible to predict; each release exploring new approaches; rhythmic ambience, industrial, proto-electronica, techno, weird rural folk, or just plain stupid pop.

Throughout all his work, Moebius retained a tight aesthetic which ensured that the music, its conceptualisation and presentation were integrated with the experience it was designed to recreate - just take a look at the covers of Musik Von Harmonia and Cluster II.

His early years in Germany as a straight jazz musician were overturned by exposure to rock and roll and The Velvet Underground, and his later activism in the European art scene. The formation of the improvisational Kluster in 1969 with Conrad Schnitzler and Hans-Joachim Roedelius at the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin led to a rejection of 'bourgeois' song structures and the beginnings of the approach to music making that made Moebius so important.

Although the chaos of Kluster was partly retained for two further albums after Schnitzler's departure in 1971, the newly-named Cluster began to develop in ways that would have been impossible to predict just a couple of years earlier. Cluster would go on to record eleven albums, the last being Qua in 2009, and included collaborations with Brian Eno in 1977 and 1978.

Across albums such as Zuckerzeit (1974), Sowiesoso (1976) and Grosses Wasser (1979) the basic formula of echo laden, vibrating rhythms, and pulsing synths was developed, resulting in music that is clearly of its time, but which is easily identifiable in any contemporary band that claims a 'krautrock' influence. Whereas Zuckerzeit seemed urgent and insistent, reflecting a lack of studio resource, Sowiesoso was recorded in the tranquility of a country house where Moebius was to spent most of the rest of his life. Its an album that evokes the flow of the river and changing seasons, and perhaps also the maturity and widening perspectives of the musicians. Grosses Wasser was Cluster's last great album, by which time the rest of the music world had just about caught up with what they were doing, and so Moebius and Roedelius sought new challenges.

Cluster's earlier collaboration with Neu!'s Michael Rother as Harmonia had produced some of Moebius' finest ever music, and is the band that I immediately turned to after learning of his death. Although this band recorded the classic Musik Von Harmonia album before this writer was born, it unequivocally our favourite album, our Revolver, Forever Changes, and Smile all rolled into one. If you want to know Getintothis' Velvet's Exploding Plastic Inevitable equivalent, that gig that everyone wishes they had attended, then its this one, Harmonia playing in an old railway station on a crisp March evening in front of ten disinterested people in South West Germany. Brian Eno wasn't wrong when he described Harmonia as the 'world's most important rock group'.

While Moebius would sometimes reunite with both Rother and Roedelius, including well received sets at All Tomorrow's Parties festivals in the 2000s, he thrived in diverse partnerships, and the majority of his output from the 1980s was in collaboration with a succession of equally important musicians; Conny Plank, Mayo Thompson, Mani Neumeier, Asmus Tietchens, each producing outputs that rate as highly as anything he produced in his prime, and his most recent work released on Bureau B records was vibrant and joyful. Moebius was hugely respected and tributes have been paid across social and national media from both fellow musicians and fans alike.