INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Shindig! MAY 2016 - by Kris Needs
The electronically-generated experiments beamed in on German underground labels such as Ohr and Brain in the early '70s provided the most mysterious, startling and future-pointing sounds of that whole shape-shifting era. While outfits such as Can, Neu! and Tangerine Dream have received much archival expansion and trumpeting, Cluster seemed to operate at a lower level although Hans-Joachim Roedelius is still sculpting unearthly sounds today as Qluster.
Roedelius and Dieter Moebius began their sonic experiments as Kluster with Conrad Schitzler when the three met at Berlin's Zodiak arts lab, renaming themselves Cluster when the latter quit in 1971. Engineered by Conny Plank, the beat-free, ambient presaging Cluster 71 uncoiled three spectral, spooked-to-eternity spacescapes, named after their lengthy running times, which cinematically floated through a post-apocalyptic ruined city and still sound utterly desolate, haunting and alien today.
1972's Cluster II slightly reined in to forge internal rhythms and spectral melodies through waves of electronic sound over six tracks. By '74's Zuckerzeit they'd acquired each member presented a mini-album carrying their individual take on future-pop, blueprinting forms such as motorik, industrial and synth-pop with beat-driven excursions like Rotor. Staying with Brain until '75 (which also saw the formation of Harmonia with Neu!'s Michael Rother), the duo repaired to their own studio in the country, signed to Sky and introduced Roedelius' beloved piano alongside analogue drum machine on '76's Sowiesoso, creating seven evocative exercises in electronic pulsing and sweeping themes. They teamed up with Eno for '77's reflectively soft-focus Cluster & Eno and the Eno-dominated tape experiments of the following year's After The Heat.
Produced by Peter Baumann, '79's Grosses Wasser contemplated styles from avant-space to proto-electro, before '81's aptly-named Curiosum signalled the end of its first golden phase as members departed to other projects before reforming in '90 (although solo exploits continued to stampede). Bureau B's wonders-stuffed box set corrals all eight albums, plus two previously-unreleased live recordings on Konzerte 1972/1977, which add an essential extra insight into the studio works and two exhaustively annotated booklets.
This most seminal, enigmatic and frequently breath-taking outfit finally possess their long-deserved consummate monument.