Qluster’s reputation precedes them…big time. Hans-Joachim Roedelius has steered the trailblazing electronic music moniker from Kluster to Cluster, and now to Qluster with Onnen Bock (of Zeitkratzer) and Armin Metz on board. And though Roedelius is twice Bock’s age, they seem to be a comfortable fit for one another on Lauschen. Truthfully, “comfortable” doesn’t seem to be the appropriate word though because, at age 78, Hans-Joachim Roedelius is still making music that sounds like little else out there. It’s as if this latest incarnation of the name has taken electronic music back to its primitive origins while avoiding any dated elements. Lauschen is pure proof positive that age doesn’t dull one’s ability to think so far from the box.
Lauschen is the product of a live recording at a Berlin festival in 2012, though you’ll hear no crowd noise, even as the last track fades out. All of the other tracks segue into one another in their various ways. This album free-floats through space, getting a firm grasp on the ambient components of Krautrock while leaving behind the random moments of musique concrète that helped define Cluster’s early years.
But the real surprise of Lauschen is that the sounds are largely made up of analog keyboards. To make music this amorphous using instruments that are, comparatively speaking, so conventional is one of those achievements that normally wouldn’t register to the listener when giving the latest from Qluster a passing glance. But Lauschen is one of those subtly uplifting journeys into high orbit that should get credit for not crashing you to the ground with all that pesky modern equipment. And through all of the technological retrograde, the quaint kitsch of yesteryear’s analog synths are absent. True, it does sound more like Dome than Tangerine Dream. But has Dome ever struck you as dated?
The set goes though a natural progression of a cloudy start giving way to some rather lush yet atonal blooms as it rolls along. “Kalliope”, the second track, signals the oncoming change with just a few sparse piano notes, a perfect fifth apart. From that point on, you could almost swear that Lauschen was coming to life organically. Despite the mess of wires, circuits, switches and cords that litter Qluster’s space, Roedelius and Bock have a real Frankenstein on their hands. There are foundations built with eerily processed high-end ostinatos, mid-level drones that sit in the back like holy guitar feedback, low-end analog gurgles setting the scene for abstractly key-free music, and the textures provided by what is absent as well as present. Negative space, positive silence. This wheel does not need reinventing, but it may have occurred yet again. This guy once cleaned toilets in post-war Germany for God’s sake, how did he arrive here? And how, at the age of 78, does he continue to carry and elevate the torch of the avant-garde like it’s nothing at all?