Pitchfork SEPTEMBER 10, 2015 - by Nick Neyland


Music continues to pour out of krautrock figurehead Hans-Joachim Roedelius, who, at eighty, shows no sign of pulling back from his work anytime soon. Still, Imagori comes at a difficult time for him, having recently lost his old sparring partner in Cluster and Harmonia, Dieter Moebius, who passed away in July. It's unlikely Roedelius would let sentiment cloud his vision - much of his recent output is marked by a strict adherence to precision, culminating in works that feel like they were finely shorn down with an X-Acto knife. Imagori continues in that vein, with Roedelius linking up with Gotan Project member Christoph H. Müller. Over ten tracks, the pair work around weighty, impenetrable electronics, dispensing with any loose ends and producing an overall sound positively suffocating in its density.

The genesis of Roedelius and Müller's collaboration lies in a series of concerts undertaken in Paris in 2012, where the pair improvised on stage together. Video footage of the events show the men bathed in stark white light, sharply dressed and fully focussed on the machines at their disposal, including a grand piano. Imagori is less tender than those performances, with the pair retreating into darkness in the studio. There's a morbidity that eats away at the corners of these tracks, forming an atmosphere not far from the rolling banks of angst that blanketed Massive Attack's trip hop classic Mezzanine.

Trip hop may seem an odd reference point for Roedelius, especially as it possesses an emotional weight he's rarely approached in his career. Müller's work in Gotan Project veers far closer to the genre's environs, although this album lands some distance away from his output there. Instead, Imagori finds Roedelius and Müller setting genre ideas in the abstract, linking classical piano embellishments to twists of bass synth reminicent of Mezzanine's Risingson (on Time Has Come) and letting ripples of piano form an echo back to Protection's Heat Miser (on Valse Mecanique). The album contains an overall sketch-like quality, executed from shards of thought - not necessarily a bad thing, but not conducive to producing a work as enveloping as Harmonia's Watussi or Cluster's Caramel.

There's a cameo from Brian Eno buried deep in Imagori, on a track about the process of recording music that's appropriately titled About Tape. It's a standout, largely because it forgoes the thickness that encases much of the album, instead working through glassier layers of electronics, plus a half-spoken, half-sung vocal from Eno that adds a welcome measure of eccentricity to an otherwise rather dry record. Its nadir comes on The Question, where a Kraftwerk-like robo-voice peers from its slowly shifting groove - an idea that feels a little too rote for someone of Roedelius' stature. Imagori is perfectly serviceable as a piece of background noise, but it doesn't work in the multifaceted way that Cluster and Harmonia albums can, where they either prick the attention or provide a soundtrack to other things going on. This just drifts along in its immaculately chiseled way.