As a member of Kluster/Cluster/Qluster and Harmonia, and in collaborations with Brian Eno, Lloyd Cole, and many others, Hans-Joachim Roedelius has been involved with more important, innovative releases than most living musicians. Sunday (October 1) Portland has the good fortune to experience the 82-year-old's regal presence and art at the Alberta Rose Theatre. To commemorate this auspicious occasion, I'm going to survey five standout creations by Roedelius over his nearly 50-year career. (The list could be 10 times longer, but you likely don't have the time/patience for such an extravagance. Note: I've avoided duplication with a similar piece I did on Roedelius's late Cluster/Harmonia band mate Dieter Moebius.)
Cluster, "21:32" (from '71). A sidelong opus from Cluster's debut LP, "21:32" crystallizes the proto-industrial-ambient approach that Roedelius, Moebius, and Conrad Schnitzler were honing on the three albums they cut as Kluster (Eruption, Klopfzeichen, and Zwei-Osterei). Similar to Tangerine Dream's early instrumental zone-outs, "21:32" whorls and whirs in a distant galaxy of harrowing desolation. What a long, strange trip Cluster engineer here.
Cluster, "Rote Riki" (Zuckerzeit). This odd ditty from 1974's beloved Zuckerzeit (German for Sugartime) captures Roedelius and Moebius's unparalleled ability to merge the jaunty with the unsettling within a synth-based context. "Rote Riki" is yet another paragon in a long line of tracks that slot into this difficult aesthetic, which I may hazard to call Rube Goldberg machine pop™. Many have attempted to achieve this sort of thing in the decades since Cluster were operating at peak productivity, but few have equaled what they did on this album and on Sowiesoso.
Cluster, "In Ewigkeit" (Sowiesoso). In some weird corner of heaven, this track is soothing the nerves of anxious newcomers. "In Ewigkeit" is the interstellar Muzak™ of the chillest gods. Some pharma company should bottle its essence and sell it to the beleaguered masses. It's almost unbearably relaxxxxxxxing.
Eno Moebius Roedelius, "Ho Renomo" (Cluster & Eno). Listen to that goddamn piano (unmistakably Hans-Joachim's handiwork) and the way it elegantly chimes above the insistent pulsations and wonky plinks of Moebius and Eno's synths. It represents a perfect symbiotic relationship in which Roedelius handles that sublime-beauty stuff and the other two Übermenschen take care of the subterranean strangeness. It's a mystery why Werner Herzog never used this piece in one of his films. (NB: The song features the late Holger Czukay on bass.)
Harmonia, "Walky-Talky" (Deluxe). In my Moebius feature, I stated how I think Musik Von Harmonia is superior to Deluxe, and I stand by this assertion. But "Walky-Talky" could definitely hang with that klassik LP or anything released by Neu!, whose guitarist, Michael Rother, also played in Harmonia. "Walky-Talky"—which also features Guru Guru's Mani Neumeier on drums—is a supreme Autobahn-cruising jam, a pastoral ramble that sparkles in a stoically brilliant, Teutonic manner. When you go to make that inevitable Now That's What I Call Krautrock mixtape, you need to include this cut.
Roedelius, XAMBUCA, at Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta, Sun Oct 1, 8 pm, $16-19.