Monolith Cocktail: Qluster 'Echtzeit'

Qluster  ‘Echtzeit’
Released by bureau b,  4th March 2016

The fourth album in three years from the most recent incarnation of Qluster, Echtzeit sees the sagacious traversing trio of Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Onnen Bock and Armin Metz make an encouraging return to electronic music.

Last year’s neo-classical recital Tasten was wholly arranged around Roedelius favourite instrument the piano: three of them in fact, a triumvirate of pianists composing serialist soundtracks for various imagined scenes and poignant reflective moments. Fluctuating, caressing and often evoking an air of mystery, an electronic-produced accompaniment is added this time to the melodious piano performances.

Echoes of the original Kluster/Cluster signature can’t help but materialize, though as ever Roedelius and his musical partners experimental exchanges are always progressive, always looking forward in some way. What began as a Zodiak Free Arts Lab after hours club, the original 1969, initial letter changing as the group develops, Kluster boasted the talents of Conrad Schnitzler, Dieter Moebius and, of course, Roedelius. Sadly no longer with us, Schnitzler would be the first to initially leave the project, whilst Moebius would carry on working with Roedelius in many guises over the decades until his death in 2015. Unreligious, especially after the hell they’d experienced during and in the aftermath of the Second World War, Kluster were rather ironically signed for a brief spell to the Schwann label, synonymous for their church organ music releases. Despite the amorphous nature of Kluster’s, sometimes dark, unclassifiable soundscapes there was still an undulating trace of cathedral organ and a certain “hymn like quality” to their music, which suited the label’s remit at the time.

Back in the now, Echtzeit was itself, for the most part, recorded in a church. Yet apart from some subtle venerated atmospherics and the occasional flicker of a Florian Fricke like reverent piano passage, Qluster’s latest improvisations take their cues from more earthly inspirations. Composed in the moment, edited down from long drawn-out contemplations, at least imbued with the acoustic space and resonance of their holy surroundings, the trio’s latest collection is far more ambient than their last outing. Shifting into vast expanses, the winds and tides of mystique take this series of instrumentals away from the melodic piano interplay of Tasten. From the very first stirrings of the seeping introductory ‘Stein auf Stein’ and its translucent partner ‘Beste Freunde’ you can hear that this is going to be an entirely different experience. Fluctuating between the stratosphere and the mountains, and the personable, each track is constantly searching for something. The adroit trio offers both the reflective and the unknown in their compositions, whether they occupy a geometrically interlaced glade or emotionally evocative, sweeping slope.

If you know your German language, or decide to just Google the song titles like me, you’ll be offered suggestions and clues to the environments and actions that occupied the musician’s minds whilst they made this album. For instance, the literally “lingering” signals from untethered alien modulations, and the drifting Tangerine Dream space voyages of ‘Verweile doch’ (otherwise translated as “but linger”), and the lamentable, curious presence of a mysterious beast on ‘Das seltsame Tier aus dem Norden’ (“the strange animal from the north”).

A return in many ways to the electronic and acoustic signatures of the past, Echtzeit creeps back towards the ambient and away from the neoclassicism of the piano experiment Tasten. Beautifully rendered, flowing between the natural and synthetic composed worlds of space, there is a number of interesting passages and sound exchanges to be found. Even though it offers a slight expansion on the trio’s investigative mood experiments, there is nothing unduly abrasive, caustic or discordant, Qluster remain contemplative and haunting.

Words:  Dominic Valvona

FYI: Fans of the Kosmiche progenitors Cluster will be delighted and thrilled to hear that bureau b will be releasing the most extensive of celebrations and appraisals of the group on April 8th 2016. A nine-album box set of Cluster’s work from 1971 to 1981, packages all the studio albums plus the unreleased Konzerte 1972/1977 together in one place for the first time. Visit the blog next month to read our review and special feature.

If you can’t wait for the details until then, here’s the lowdown:

All the original albums plus one unreleased (“Konzerte 1972/1977”), remastered by Willem Makkee

Booklet featuring essays on each album and rare photos

Vinyl set: 1000 copies (180g), CD set: 1500 copies


CLUSTER 71 originally released 1971 on Philips 6305074

CLUSTER II originally released 1972 on Brain 1006

ZUCKERZEIT originally released in 1972 on Brain 1056

SOWIESOSO originally released in 1976 on SKY 005

CLUSTER & ENO originally released in 1977 on SKY 010

ENO MOEBIUS ROEDELIUS/ AFTER THE HEAT originally released in 1978 on SKY 021

GROSSES WASSER originally released in 1979 on SKY 027

CURIOSUM originally released in 1981 on SKY 063

KONZERTE 1972/1977 previously unreleased

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