Forty years ago this month, German supergroup Harmonia released their debut album Musik Von Harmonia in 1974. It was released to critical acclaim and hailed a groundbreaking, genre-melting album. Musik Von Harmonia saw Harmonica fuse ambient music and Krautcock. This was unheard of, and akin to a musical revolution. Mind you, that’s not surprising, when you look at Harmonca’s personnel

Harmonia were founded in 1973, when members of two Krautrock giants, Cluster and Neu joined forces. Hans-Joachim Rodelius and Dieter Moebius had founded  Cluster in 1971. Since then, they’d released two albums, 1971s Cluster and 1972s Cluster II. Both albums were a fusion of ambient, avant-garde, experimental and what became known as Krautrock. Although both albums were released to critical acclaim, like a lot of groundbreaking music, it wasn’t a commercial success. This was the same for the third member of Harmonia, Michael Rother, a member of Neu, another musical Pioneer.  

By 1973, Klaus Dinger and decided to put their band on hold for a while. Neu! had just released their sophomore album Neu 2 in 1973. Just like their eponymous debut album, it wasn’t a commercial success. Whilst it too was released to critical acclaim, and perceived as groundbreaking, it wasn’t a commercial success. This was the final straw for Neu. It was just the latest setback. 

Things had got so bad for Neu! that they’d run out money halfway through recording Neu 2. Necessity being the mother of invention, Neu took the songs they’d already recorded, and reworked them. Essentially, these tracks were some of the earliest remixes. These tracks were added to the ones Neu had already recorded and became Neu 2. Released in 1973, it was a case of a group being ahead of their time. So, Klaus Dinger and Michael Rotherd decided to put Neu on the back burner. This allowed Klaus and Michael to build their own studio in Forst, a small village in rural Germany. This was where Michael met Hans-Joachim Rodelius and Dieter Moebius.

Hans-Joachim and Dieter had been living in Forst for some time. They’d recorded their third album Zuckerzeit, but it wasn’t released until 1974. Cluster were establishing a reputation as a pioneering group. So were Neu! They were one of the founding father’s of Krautrock. So when Hans-Joachim and Dieter of Cluster decided to work with Michael Rother of Neu this was a tantalising prospect. 

They called their new group Harmonia and began playing live. German music fans were won over by this new supergroup. Packed concert halls awaited Harmonia every night. Having played live and gotten to know each other as musicians, Harmonia began work on their debut album  Musik Von Harmonia.

For their debut album Musik Von Harmonia the three members of Harmonia cowrote eight tracks. Recording of Musik Von Harmonia took place between June and November 1973. The three members of were multi-instrumentalists.  Hans-Joachim played organ, piano, guitar and electric percussion. Dieter played synths, guitar and electric percussion. Michael played guitar, organ, piano and electric percussion. Harmonia was produced by the band and once it was completed, was released in January 1974.

On the release of Musik Von Harmonia in January 1974, critics realised that this was an important album. Critically acclaimed upon its release, Brian Eno was also a fan of Musik Von Harmonia. He called Harmonia “the world’s most important rock band.” Despite critics and artists realising that Musik Von Harmonia was a minor classic, the album wasn’t a commercial success. The problem was, Musik Von Harmonia wasn’t a commercial album. Just like Neu and Cluster’s first two albums, Musik Von Harmonia didn’t sell well. However, since then,  just like Neu and Cluster’s first two albums, Musik Von Harmonia is perceived as classic album, one that’s influenced several generations of musicians. You’ll realise why when I tell you about Musik Von Harmonia.

Opening Musik Von Harmonia is Watussi. Rhythmic and hypnotic describes this track. Drums crack like pistols joining banks of synths. This is classic Krautrock, albeit with a twist. The twist is the ambient influence. In the background, ambient and experimental music are fused. Washes of synths, percussion and searing, blistering guitar combine with effects. This results in a mesmeric and innovative fusion of classic Krautrock with ambient, avant-garde and experimental music.

Sehr Kosmisch has a much more understated, subtle sound. It’s best described as an ambient soundscape. The music unfolds in waves, growing ever closes. The drama grows, as drums steadily pulsate. They’re akin to an army marching. Washes of synths are variously ethereal and jagged, meandering as their eerie, broody sound grows. As the arrangement progresses, the drama builds. Gone is the understated sound. There’s a still a hypnotic, pulsating sound to the dramatic arrangement. It still unfolds in waves as it builds to its crescendo, as Harmonia reinvent Krautrock with a groundbreaking track.

Sonnenschein explodes into life. Guitars reverberate, sound effects surround you and Harmonia are on the march again. As they march along, they continue to rewrite Krautrock’s rulebook. To do this, they draw inspiration from ambient, avant-garde, classical, experimental, Krautrock and world music. Hypnotic, grandiose, experimental, dramatic and impressive describes Harmonia as they continue their pioneering journey.

Dino is driven along by the drums, while guitars wah-wah and synths buzz and beep. Straight away, I can hear a similarity to Neu’s debut album. That’s thanks to the hypnotic groove created by the motorik beat which became a trademark of Kraurock. Although only half of Neu play on this track, Harmonia seem to be able to recreate classic Neu almost as good as the original group can.

Swathes of eerie, haunting synths open Ohrwurm. Add to this pizzicato strings and experimental guitar. Feedback hangs in the air, as the track takes on an avant-garde sound. It’s as if Harmonia are just jamming, seeing where this leads. This was what Can did. They called this spontaneous composition. By now, fuzzy guitars are sprayed across the arrangement. Menacingly, they hang in the air. So do the the jagged synths. It all becomes very avant-garde and experimental, but strangely melodic and compelling. Harmonia it seems, are determined to constantly reinvent their music.

Ahoi has an spacious, ambient sound. Just a melancholy keyboard and chiming guitar combine. They meander along, seemingly in no hurry. Space is left, as the keyboards and guitar keep each other company. The guitar reverberates into the distance, while a wistful piano poses questions that are never answered. Later, it’s all change. Waves of dramatic music threaten to assail you. Urgent strings, hypnotic keyboards and a myriad of percussion swagger along. By then, the arrangement veers towards discordant and disturbing, but instead, remains the rights side of dramatic. A song of two parts, it shows two equally enthralling sides to Harmonia’s music.

Veterano is a dramatic, driving fusion of Krautrock, psychedelia and rock. Synths, crunchy, punchy drums and mesmeric keyboards unite. They drive the arrangement along. Meanwhile guitars drift in and out. They’re panned hard right, and sometimes, sound hesitant. Other times they’re responsible for some peerless solos. A myriad of percussion adds to the hypnotic nature of this driving, urgent arrangement that forty years later, is truly timeless. 

Hausmusik closes Musik Von Harmonia. A vintages sounding keyboard plays in the distant. It sounds like a reminder of another age. Gradually, it draws closer. Washes of synths, percussion and wailing guitars are panned right to left assailing and surrounding you. It’s as if Harmonia are determined to close their debut album on a high. This they do, mixing vintage and space-age sounds to create a soundscape that’s innovative, ethereal, multilayered and full of nuances and subtleties.

With Cluster and Neu on hold, three of the most innovative musicians of a generation joined forces to create Harmonia. Having played live, they set about recording their debut album Musik Von Harmonia. On its release, Musik Von Harmonia was critically acclaimed, but wasn’t commercially successful. For the members of Cluster and Neu, they must have been used to this. Both groups had released two albums, and although they were groundbreaking classics, weren’t commercially successful. The problem was Cluster, Neu and Harmonia were ahead of their time. People neither understood, nor appreciated these albums. Musik Von Harmonia was just the latest album to suffer this fate. Belatedly, these albums have received the credit they deserved.

Forty years after its release, Musik Von Harmonia is perceived as a groundbreaking album that’s a Krautrock classic. Harmonia fused ambient and Krautrock on Musik Von Harmonia. They also added elements of avant-garde, classical, experimental, psychedelia and rock. The result was an ambitious groundbreaking, genre-melting album, Musik Von Harmonia. It’s best described as broody, moody, eerie, ethereal, space-age, cinematic, mesmeric and hypnotic. Musik Von Harmonia is a multilayered album full of nuances, subtleties and secrets. That’s just a few of the reasons why Musik Von Harmonia is a Krautrock classic, that was way ahead of its time and belongs in any record collection. Standout Tracks: Watussi, Sehr Kosmisch, Ahoi and Veterano.


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