Back in 1969, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius and Conrad Schnitzler founded Kluster, which would become one of the most important groups in the nascent Krautrock movement. Kluster went on to release two albums between 1969 and 1971, Zwei-Ostere and Klopfzeichen. However, in 1971 Conrad Schnitzler announced that he was leaving Kluster. So Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius formed Cluster.
Just like Kluster, Cluster would prove to be a groundbreaking group. The music they released was among the most important, innovative and influential of the Krautrock, and post-Krautrock era.
Cluster released their eponymous debut album in 1971. This was the first of seven albums Cluster released between 1971 and 1981. Cluster II was released in 1972, with Zuckerzeit following in 1974. After this, Cluster was put on hold while Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius formed Harmonia with Michael Rother.
Harmonia released two albums between 1974 and 1975. Their debut, Musik Von Harmonia was released later in 1974, with Deluxe following in 1975. Neither album was commercially successful, but later, would become Kraurock classics. So would’ve Tracks and Traces, Harmonia’s collaboration with Brian Eno.
The only problem was, the master tapes for Tracks and Traces were lost, and only rediscovered nearly twenty years later. Somewhat belatedly, Tracks and Traces was released in 1997, and the collaboration between Harmonia and Brian Eno was hailed a lost classic. This however , wasn’t the only time Brian Eno had worked with members of Harmonia.
After recording Tracks and Traces, Cluster collaborated with Brian Eno on Cluster and Eno. It was released in 1977, and featured the three innovators pushing musical boundaries to their limits. Cluster would continue to do this.
Two years later, and Cluster release their last studio album of the seventies, Grosses Wasser. It was released in 1979, and was Cluster’s first album of the post-Krautrock era. Seamlessly. Cluster reinvented themselves, and proved that they were still relevant, and capable of creating groundbreaking music.
As the seventies dawned, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius were about to celebrate three decides making music together. By then, the two men continued to effortlessly combine their solo careers with Cluster. However, Cluster’s first album of the eighties wasn’t a studio album.
Instead, Cluster and Farnbauer Live In Vienna was a live collaboration with Joshi Farnbauer. It had been recorded at Wiener Festwochen Alternativ on 12th June 1980. Just like previous projects, Cluster were out of their comfort zone and making ambitious, experimental music. For a group into their third decade making music, Cluster were still pioneers.
That continued right up until Cluster released Curiosum, in 1981. It was the last studio album Cluster would release this millennium.
After the release of Curiosum, Cluster was put on hold. Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius decided to concentrate on other projects. That was until 1994, when Cluster made their comeback.
The comeback took place in July 1994 in Vienna, which Hans-Joachim Roedelius called home. For an hour, Cluster took to the stage and improvised, on one lengthy sixty minute track. It was an ambitious, innovative genre-melting album. After thirteen years away, One Hour was released in December 1994. For fans of Cluster, Christmas had come early. Cluster were back, and stood head and shoulders of the pretenders to their crown. However, were Cluster back for good?
It wasn’t until 1997, that Cluster released another album. This time, Cluster released not one, but two live albums. This included Japan 1996 Live, which documented Cluster’s Japanese tour. First Encounter Tour 1996 celebrated Clusters first American tour, where the two veterans were treated as conquering heroes. After twenty-eight years together, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius were receiving the critical acclaim and plaudits that their music so richly deserved.
Despite this, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius put Cluster on hold again. It wasn’t until 2008, when Cluster released another live album, Berlin 07. However, the next year Cluster would return with their first studio album since 1981.
Qua was released in 2008, some twenty-seven years after Cluster’s previous studio album. Since 1981, Hans-Joachim Roedelius had worked on countless projects, and his discography numbered well over one hundred. Cluster’s latest album Qua was a welcome addition from a group that were now regarded as one of the most important, innovative and influential bands of Krautrock, and post-Krautrock era. They had influenced and inspired several generations of musicians. Sadly, the Cluster story was almost at an end.
By 2010, Cluster disbanded. Hans-Joachim Roedelius was seventy-five; and Dieter Moebius sixty-four. They two fiends had spent a lifetime making music. Maybe now they wanted to take things easy?
Not Hans-Joachim Roedelius. The seventy-five year old,decided to form a new band, one that continued the work of Kluster and Cluster. So Qluster was born.
Initially, Qluster featured Hans-Joachim Roedelius and keyboardist and electronic musician Onnen Bock. heir debut was the studio album Rufen, which was released in 2011. This was the first in a trilogy.
Fragen, the second album in the trilogy was released by Qluster in 2011.Then the third, and final instalment, in the trilogy, Antworten. was released in 2012. By then, Qluster were being heralded as one of the most important modern day groups.
By the time Qluster were ready to record their fourth album, Lauschen, two had become three. Multi-instrumentalist Armin Metz had joined Qluster, and made his debut on Lauschen. It was released later in 2014.
When Lauschen was released,Hans-Joachim Roedelius was seventy-nine. He wasn’t slowing down, and certainly hadn’t lost any of his enthusiasm for music. Several generations of record buyers were drawn to Qluster’s music. From those who grew up listening to with Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia, Qluster was essential listening.
Qluster released their fifth album Tasten in 2015. Stylistically, it marked a departure in style. A triumvirate of pianos featured on Tasten. This wasn’t surprising given Hans-Joachim Roedelius love of the piano. However, less than a year later, and Qluster were preparing to release their sixth album in just five years, Echtzeit.
For their sixth album, Echtzeit the three members of Qluster decided to change direction. The triumvirate of pianos featured on Tasten was a thing of the past. Replacing it, would be a much more ambient sound.
The three members of Qluster would cowrite the ten soundscapes on Echtzeit. They would be recorded in two locations. Four tracks were recorded in Berlin; while Wolf Bock recorded the other six tracks in Schönberg in Austria. That’s where Qluster setup their impressive array of instruments and effects.
This included an ARP 2300 with a Steiner Masters Touch breath controller; Roland Jupiter 4, Korg MS 20, Yamaha CS-15, Mikromorg, Animoog, a DIY MOS Weird Sound Generator, a Boston Grand Piano GP-193, Farfisa VIP 345, Fender Rhodes and Rhythm Ace FR-8L. A church organ was used, and recorded in situ. The effects used on Echtzeit a Yamaha 1005, Boss RC-20, Cosmic AE-7000, Ken Multi DE-1000 and Evans Echoplet EP100. These instruments and effects were put to good use on the ten tracks on Echtzeit. Once Qluster had recorded the ten tracks, Onnen Bock and Armin Metz mixed Echtzeit. All that was left for Echtzeit to be mastered.
To master Echtzeit, Jonas Förster was chosen. As he worked on mastering Echtzeit, Qluster prepared for the release of the sixth album in just five years. This was a remarkable feat, especially considering founder Hans-Joachim Roedelius was eighty-one. However, he had twice the enthusiasm of men half his age. The grand old man of German music was still working in ten separate projects. This was the musical equivalent of spinning plates, which Hans-Joachim Roedelius was still a master of. However, as the release of Echtzeit approached, Hans-Joachim Roedelius was in for a surprise.
Hans-Joachim Roedelius was awarded a Schallwelle Award. This was in recognition of a lifetime spent making groundbreaking music. To date, this includes over 200 albums. Soon, one more would be added to that figure, when Echtzeit was released by the Hamburg based Bureau B label.
Opening Echtzeit is Stein Auf Stein. Futuristic sounds can be heard in the distance. As they grow closer, keyboards are caressed and what sounds like waves breaking on the beach can heard. Soon, a dramatic, cinematic, but minimalist soundscape is taking shape. Less is more, as keyboards flow slowly into the distance. Then the waves break on the beach, as Qluster take their leave.
By then, ethereal describes the subtle introduction to Beste Freunde. Slowly and almost deliberately, a piano plays. Notes are picked with the utmost care, as a myriad of sci-fi sounds flit in and out. They fill the space left the slow, deliberate, thoughtful piano. There’s a sense of melancholy in the track, and sometimes frustration and sadness. One can’t help but wonder if Hans-Joachim Roedelius is thinking of his dear friend Dieter Moebius, who sadly, died in July 2015? They were best friends who spent a lifetime making music and travelling the world. If that’s the case, then Beste Freunde is the perfect homage to the late, great Dieter Moebius.
Verweile Doch is very different from the previous track. A church organ plays, while bubbling, mesmeric synths add a hypnotic counterpart. Again, there’s an almost understated sound. Very few instruments are deployed, but the ones that have been chosen, prove hugely effective. They create a track that’s variously understated, hypnotic and dreamy ambient soundscape.
Distant washes of synths gradually make their presence felt on Von Weiter Ferne Ganz Nah. However, again, the arrangement has an understated sound and quality. Soon, its ethereal beauty envelops the listener. By then, another glorious ambient soundscape is sharing its secrets. As synths drone, a keyboard plays softly. It’s the perfect counterpoint to the mainstay of the arrangement. They’re like yin and yang as this this fuzzy, lysergic epic embraces, envelops and enthrals.
Glasperlenspiel may only be two minutes long, but it’s two magical minutes. The sparse arrangement is sonic subtly personified. As a piano plays slowly and deliberately, clinking keyboards prove the perfect complement. Together, they create a soundscape that’s understated, ruminative and reflective.
Zweites Kapitel sees Qluster change direction sonically. There’s a lo-fi sound to the keyboard, as a droning synth and hand drum combine. Quivering, shimmering sounds flit in and out. Then occasionally, the sound a tape slowing down is replicated. Brief bursts of sci-fi sounds can be heard. So are bursts of droning synths, as Qluster experiment. To do this, they combine traditional and electronic instruments; plus the music of the distant past and present. The result is what one has come to expect of Qluster, the music of tomorrow.
Das Seltsame Tier Aus Dem Norden sounds like the theme to a Cold War thriller. Just a lone, melancholy piano plays, while a myriad of electronic sounds and chatter add to the cinematic sound. Again, the piano is played slowly, thoughtfully and deliberately. Space is left between the notes, which are filled by bursts of futuristic, sci-fi sounds. Later, there’s some brief bursts of flamboyance and drama. By then, the listener is providing the script to the melancholy, but melodic delights of the Das Seltsame Tier Aus Dem Norden. It’s the most cinematic track on Echtzeit
There’s a thoughtful sound to the droning synths that drift in and out of Auf Der Lichtung. Meanwhile, a keyboard plays. As usual, the different parts of the arrangement compliment each other perfectly. They play their port in what’s a moody, genre-melting soundscape. It showcases a ruminative, but melodic and mesmeric sound which is compelling and captivating.
Dark, verging on menacing describes the synths that drift in on Weg Am Hang. They drone, linger and resonate. Meanwhile, swells of synths rise and fall, while what sounds like synth strings play. By then, a keyboard meanders across the arrangement, as instruments make an appearance, only to disappear and sometimes, reappear. Nothing however, is as it seems. Qluster deploy their array of effects, which transforms the original signal into something quite different. Soon, the arrangement veers between dramatic, ethereal, futuristic, cinematic and wisful. Sonic sculptors Qluster, take the listener on an epic emotional roller coaster.
In Deinen Händen closes Qluster’s sixth album Echtzeit. Slowly, and almost deliberately a keyboard accompanies the piano. They may sound quite different, but compliment each other perfectly. Soon, though, Hans-Joachim Roedelius’ beautiful, crystalline, piano takes centre-stage; while the rest of Qluster are left to add an array of sci-fi sounds. That’s until the arrangement is stripped bare, and all that remains is the dreamy sound of the keyboard. All too soon, Echtzeit is over.
Echtzeit is the sixth album that Qluster have released since 2011. It’s also the best album of Qluster’s career. While it’s very different from Tasten, that’s to be expected.
Never can Hans-Joachim Roedelius be accused of making the same album twice. That’s despite releasing over 200 albums. So he’s certainly not going to start now. Instead, Echtzeit is another album groundbreaking from Qluster.
Echtzeit marks a stylistic departure from Qluster. Their previous album Tasten, featured a triumvirate of pianos. This was something new, and was released to widespread critical acclaim. However, despite the plaudits, Hans-Joachim Roedelius was determined that Qluster to continue to reinvent their music on Echtzeit. The result was Echtzeit, a much more ambient sounding album.
On Echtzeit, Qluster combine elements of ambient, avant-garde and Berlin School with electronica and experimental music. The result is music that’s mostly understated, subtle and minimalist. It’s case of less is more. Occasionally, the music becomes dark, dramatic and briefly, menacing. This adds to the cinematic sound of Echtzeit. Mostly, the music on Echtzeit veers between beautiful, dreamy, ethereal and lysergic; to hypnotic and mesmeric and sometimes, melancholy, reflective, ruminative, thoughtful and wistful. Always though, Echtzeit is compelling, captivating and cinematic. Echtzeit is also melodic and harmonious, and is a fitting addition to the Kluster, Cluster and Qluster illustrious discography.
Forty-seven years after he first co-founded Kluster, Hans-Joachim Roedelius is keeping the memory of Kluster and Cluster alive with Qluster. Along with Onnen Bock and Armin Metz, Hans-Joachim Roedelius continues to innovate with Qluster. That’s what he’s been doing during a lifetime making music, including on Echtzeit which was recently released on vinyl by Bureau B. Although the sound quality and quality of vinyl is good, it’s debatable whether it’s worth paying the extra for the vinyl edition of Echtzeit. While it’s Ultimately, it’s personal choice. The important thing is to pick up a copy of Echtzeit.
Echtzeit is the most accessible album of Qluster’s six album career. It’s the perfect introduction to Qluster, and an album that should introduce Qluster to a new and much wider audience. Veterans of Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia will enjoy and embrace Qluster’s new album Echtzeit. It finds the grand old man of German music, Hans-Joachim Roedelius continuing the legacy of Kluster and Cluster with Qluster on Echtzeit.