A note on last week’s playlist from Nick, praising the new Cluster album in the face of what he descibes as “kosmische-light” (lite? leit?). Quite tempted, actually, to use that as part of some self-sabotaging branding project. Wild Mercury Sound: Hyping Kosmische-Lite Since 2007.
In truth, though, this new Cluster record, “Qua” is pretty good. It feels like we’ve been happily bombarded with various Cluster reissues over the past few months: looking at my iPod the other day, I discovered I had two different versions of “Sowiesoso” on there; and even now on my desk there are a couple of Moebius and Roedelius solo reissues on Bureau B waiting to be played.
There’s also an album here credited to Robert AA Lowe & Rose Lazar called “Eclipses”, though it seems Lazar contributes artwork rather than music (which I haven’t seen). It’s plausible that Lowe could be described as making “Kosmische-Lite”, though I’m sure he’d bristle at the term. He usually records faintly creepy quasi-ambience as Lichens, and has recently been sitting in on live dates with Om.
Anyhow “Eclipses”, and I quote from the press release, is about “Pushing out beyond natural terrestrial landscapes into those slightly more cosmic or alien in scope,” and was “recorded at home by Lowe utilizing semi-modular and polyphonic analogue synthesizers”. The results are a bunch of austerely minimal and very beautiful pieces – maybe 80 per cent restful, 20 per cent unnerving – that I’d normally describe as kosmische: imagine one of Gavin Russom’s projects, rendered beatless, for a contemporary comparison.
I’d also often use Cluster as a reference point for this sort of thing (especially the lengthy, undulating “Crayon Gym”), but playing “Eclipses” and “Qua” next to each other, it’s clear that the former has a certain spiritual/meditative heft (though this might just be an assumption based on the Om hook-up), while Cluster are much more slippery and playful than their reputation and legacy sometimes suggest.
Moebius certainly didn’t come across as particularly playful on the recent BBC4 Krautrock documentary: compared with his generally contented and well-adjusted contemporaries, he seemed to be the one musician of his generation to be interviewed who betrayed some bitterness at not receiving the credit and financial rewards he felt he deserved.
Nevertheless, “Qua” reverberates with the duo’s enduring eccentricities, 17 miniatures shot through with creaking doors, unreliable clocks and constantly shifting musical patterns. It sounds heroically out of time, and not at all like the new-ageish Roedelius & Story album from a couple of years back.
There are no lunar meditations here, and a lot of these trinkets sound more like a halfway house between some early ‘90s electronica things (The Black Dog, maybe?) and electronic approximations of early Moondog pieces. It’s very charming and effective, though it’d be a stretch to imagine I’ll end up playing it more than, say, “Zuckerzeit”.