Monday, April 10, 2017

Harmonia - 1974 - Music Von Harmonia

Music Von Harmonia

01. Watussi (5:55)
02. Sehr Kosmisch (10:50)
03. Sonnenschein (3:50)
04. Dino (3:30)
05. Ohrwurm (5:05)
06. Ahoi! (5:00)
07. Veterano (3:55)
08. Hausmusik (4:30)

- Roedelius / organ, piano, guitar, electronic percussion
- Dieter Moebius / synthesizer, guitar, electronic percussion
- Michael Rother / guitar, piano, organ, electronic percussion

Before to start a fruitful career in solo, Michael Rother integrated Cluster's side project called Harmonia. Initially formed by Hans Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, the band had the intention to go further in ambient music approach. Rejecting a great part of the experimental side of Cluster's music (I & II), they recorded "Musik von" in 1974. Michael Rother who produced the same year Cluster's zukerzeit, collaborated in Harmonia for guitars, ambient synth parts. With rather discreet appearances of the band on stage, the promotion of "Musik von" failed to attract the attention of the public. Musically the compositions stay obscure, consisting of complex, "avant-garde" pieces made for electronic gadgets, organs, including drum machines, repetitive pulses. The atmosphere is "abstract", sometimes "cosmic" but still melodic. In 1975, the trio recorded its seminal "Deluxe" with the participation of Mani Neumeier (Guru Guru) on drums. The album was produced by Michael Rother himself. With new, various compositional ideas, inventive synthesized sounds and Rother's guitar signature, this album is more relaxed, light than the previous one. Historically it remains a pre-ambient electronic standard. Brian ENO who is fascinated by the music of Harmonia joined the musicians on stage during a concert at the Fabrik Club in Hamburg.

He finally collaborated with the band in 1976 for their last album "Harmonia 76- Tracks & traces". The music is clearly into ambient, "aquatic", dreamy atmospheres with floating synth effects, repetitive guitar lines. ENO wrote the lyrics and provided some synth parts. After Harmonia's dissolution, Brian Eno will work with Roedelius & Moebius for several personal albums ("Cluster & Eno", 1977/ "Before and After Science", 1977 / "After the Heat", 1979).

Cluster tended to produce their best work when collaborating with other musicians, as their brilliant work with Brian Eno proves. This 1974 work with Michael Rother of Neu! is another example of musicians bringing out the best in each other - Rother brings a sense of structure to Clusters sometimes aimless soundscapes, while Cluster add a warmth of feeling that is sometimes absent from Rother's work (for example side 1 of Neu! 75). There's also a slightly ramshackle feel to the whole affair - the rhythm is supplied by drum machines that probably weren't state of the art even in 1974, and the whole thing was recorded in a home made studio in an old farmhouse on partly home made equipment, so despite the exclusively electronic instrumentation there's an almost bucolic feel to much of the album.
About half of the album displays an obvious Neu! influence in the form of rhythmic, repetitive pieces with Rother's guitar upfront, whilst the remainder is the more atmospheric proto ambient style of music which was Cluster's trademark. This is neatly illustrated by the first two tracks - Watussi is built around a loping rhythm track with Rother's guitar and Cluster's synths chasing each other around and across the relentless pulse of the drum machine. Serr Kosmich, on the other hand, is barely audible at times - a slow beat underpins some extremely low key electornis, with occasional brief clusters of notes surfacing for a few moments. At times it's barely audible, almost as though the backing track was based on the breath and heartbeat of one of the members. This pattern continus through the remaining shorter pieces on the album. Although some form of beat is present on all tracks, the relentless motorik of Klaus Dinger is notably absent, and for the most part the rhythms are more relaxed than on Neu's albums. It's also odd that the final track is called Hausmusik - perhaps Harmonia were about 15 years ahead of their time.

Musik Von Harmonia may sound slightly dated today, but the ideas behind it and the sense of adventure that permeated the sessions are as fresh as ever. There was more to 70s German music than Can, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, and this album is a good place to start exploring.

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