Cluster: Cluster 1971-81 (Bureau B)

Groundbreaking German electronic pioneers career in box set form

Released Mar 20th, 2016 via Bureau B / By Erick Mertz
Cluster: Cluster 1971-81 (Bureau B) By nature, fans of underground artists gather in cliques. Obscurity is one of the primary joys of living off the beaten path, the secret handshakes, code words, the nods at key iconography. German electronic music pioneers Cluster can claim much more than a mere cliquish society at the beating heart of their fan base though… they’re more of a sect, a cult of unbridled devotion from luminary followers that continues to thrive exist decades after their key recording period.

A new Cluster box set covers a rich vein in electronic music history. While not comprehensive, the collection spans from their seminal 1971, self-titled debut as Cluster (before which they were known as a more Teutonic Kluster) and its departure from proto-industrial to more experimental electronic sounds, through Curiosum the last collaboration for almost a decade between core members Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius.

Navigating a course through these nine diverse albums, rife with offbeat instrumentation, peculiarly satisfying melodies and sputtering sounds that emulate science fiction is a daunting undertaking but not because they are inaccessible. Rather the sheer volume of cutting edge music and the commanding power of suggestions that marks Cluster’s sound create the ready challenge. It’s nearly impossible to venture into their mid-decade collaborations with Brian Eno (After The Heat and Cluster & Eno) and avoid daydream comparisons to his work, particularly that which he would bring into the fold with David Byrne. Equally challenging is digging into the gentle textures of 1976 Sowiesoso that is full of heart-rending stillness and light.

Now that a Cluster document has finally been offered up, it’s time to appreciate their contributions to the form’s integration into more mainstream avenues. At once these records evoke images of how 80’s popular music toyed with the studio as instrument and acted as forerunner to modern basement impresarios, where engineer has become as much a member of the band as the player. However one takes to 1971-81 the reward is inherent, the journey sublime and educational from either the position of a fan or a neophyte.