The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Echtzeit Euan Andrews , March 1st, 2016 19:56

Everything in the garden is beautiful and calm. As solo performer and artist, Hans-Joachim Roedelius has pursued a particularly verdant and fragrant strain of electronica both reflecting upon and diverging away from his work as one half of Cluster with Dieter Moebius. As Cluster evolved from the broiling industrial hiss of their earliest recordings into a more streamlined and rarefied proposition, the young radicals fleeing grime-encrusted cities for tranquil repose as men of arable and fertile land, so Roedelius's solo albums became the sharply sweetened counter to Moebius's grit and rough-edged clarity. Solo Roedelius records like 1979's Jardin Au Fou and the Selbstportrait series were versions of melodic pastoralism which could well have been subtitled Music for Bucolic Garden Parties. Unlike the melancholic cerebralism of Eno's contemporary work, Roedelius created a form of ambient music which glistened with joie de vivre and revelled in its own joyous existence. It was music which could be designed for backgrounds, aural wallpaper for living environments, but why could those backgrounds not be warm and welcoming as opposed to sterile, functional spaces?

As Cluster expired once again in the dwindling years of the last decade (an uncoupling now made permanent with the recent passing of Moebius), Roedelius clearly decided there was still unfinished business which could be filed under another iteration of that moniker. As once they had been Kluster, so in 2011 Cluster were reincarnated as Qluster on their debut album, Fragen. A prolific collaborator, quite why Roedelius wished to continue with his former group name in reformatted guise was a mystery. But on listening to the records which have been released as Qluster, you can hear why this link was maintained. Qluster's music has that same gaseous formlessness, the sound of a benignly nebulous entity manifesting itself as drifting clouds of glimmering particles which coalesce and disperse in constant flux.

Originally a duo pairing Roedelius with Onnen Bock, 2013's fourth Qluster album Lauschen brought Armin Metz into the group enabling a more expansive sound which was then taken further on the grand piano trio format of last year's Tasten. While that could be seen as Qluster unplugged and utilising modern acoustic composition, Echtzeit refocuses the trio upon electronics while also being reminiscent of Roedelius's solo work in its placement of contemplative piano improvisations within a circuit-built framework. This is most readily notable on the opening two pieces, in which the gently hovering storm of 'Stein Auf Stein' downpours through ominous turbulence into unexpectedly solid structure on 'Beste Freunde'.

In fact, the most surprising thing about Echtzeit is how like it is to Sowiesoso vintage Cluster spliced with Roedelius's solo piano peregrinations. The slowly shifting weather formations of Lauschen and 2011's Rufen have been replaced with a set of pieces which nod to Roedelius's past in bite-size chunks. 'Von weiter Ferne ganz nah' floats by as rudimentary environmental landmass reduced to spatial tones, 'Glasperlenspiel' tinkles like animated raindrops while 'Zweites Kapitel', with its morning fanfare and basic percussive pattering, evokes halcyon days of rural lives forty years ago with Michael Rother and Brian Eno.

Unlike the cohesiveness of earlier releases, Echtzeit has the feel of a compendium of sketches playing upon inherent strengths within Roedelius's considerable back catalogue. However, what it lacks in experiential probing is made up for by the simple fact of Echtzeit being a nice place to dwell and linger. While Qluster's first records sought to evoke the spirit of restless experimentation and conscious searching that marked out Cluster's opening missives, perhaps we have now arrived in their second phase in which the thirst for knowledge and experience is replaced by the desire to just sit still and be. If you find yourself in a beautiful garden on a summer's afternoon, the best thing you can do is simply breathe deeply and feel glad to be alive.