Record Review: Harmonia – Musik Von Harmonia

Groenland Records | GER | CD | 2015 | CDGRON149

Harmonia: Musik Von Harmonia GER CD [2015]

  1. Watussi
  2. Sehr Kosmicsch
  3. Sonnenschein
  4. Dino
  5. Ohrwurm
  6. Ahoi!
  7. Veterano
  8. Hausmusik

This had been an album that I had wanted for several years recently, after hearing about it on the past blogs of my friend, Ron Kane. By the time I finally took the Krautrock plunge five years ago, it got near the top of my want list, so buying a copy only five years later when the occasion of a Roedelius concert in town chanced to happen, indicates fairly rapid deployment of a purchase from one who has waited decades to buy other titles. Actually, I stopped in Harvest Records locally specifically to buy the copy in their “Krautrock” section the week before the concert only to find that the section was no longer there! Oh well, better for all of the spoils to go directly to Roedelius.

So I was fairly pre-disposed to enjoy this album seeing as it was a collaboration between Cluster [Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius] and Michael Rother of Neu! I have many of Roedelius’ projects in the Record Cell and certainly I have at least the first Neu! album, the eponymous “Neu!” [No home should be without it] Seeing as how Rother was involved, the approach here echoes the rhythmic basis of Neu! even while their distinctive drummer, Klaus Dinger was entirely absent from this project. the opening “Watussi” was constructed on multiple looping elements of keyboards, synths and guitars each keeping their own loping rhythms as the track lazily unfurled, gradually gaining in intensity near its nearly six minute length. I have to say that I was reminded of “No Pussyfooting,” by Fripp + Eno as a touchstone. Particularly “Swastika Girls,”  but it may have been that the work was completely separate andconcurrent. This album was recorded in 1973, the same years as the Fripp + Eno album’s release, even though it was released in 1974.

“Sehr Kosmisch” was the longest track here. It was built on throbbing synth pulses with very “kosmich” overlays of wooshing synths, sounding rather like the “It Must Be Obvious [UFO mix]” of Pet Shop Boys as remixed courtesy of KLF 16 years later. Only the neurotic tension of the latter was absent here. The pastoral piano that entered the track eventually added a calm placidity to the largely synthetic foundation of the song. At almost eleven minutes, it reserved enough space to become an environment.

Side one ended with the most motorik track here yet; the insistent “Sonnenschein” [“sunshine”]. The relentless treated rhythm box beat never faltered as the melodic overlays of synth sounded like heraldic horns announcing some potentate’s arrival. Near the end of the song, rapid sinewaves of synth clicked into place and then the penny dropped.  This track was clearly the blueprint for Tubeway Army’s “When The Machines Rock.” True, the tone of the Numan cut was less formal, but the pacing and arrangement were surprisingly similar. Right down to the wailing sinewave synth at the song’s ending.

Anyone waiting for the DNA of Neu! to come to the fore would love “Dino,” the brief but extremely energetic little motorik popsong that featured a perfect blend of twangy rhythm guitar with flute-like synth leads over the beat. The blueprint had been set here for the sound that launched a thousand albums just a few years later. And yet, there’s something familiar about it. Listen closely and you’ll hear the seeds sown by The Velvet Underground seven years earlier. The big difference was that The Velvet Underground didn’t have synthesizers, but otherwise… most of the band’s traits were there.

“Ohrwurm” [“earworm”] was mistitled; at least as we understand the term today. The groaning, droning synths sounded like a mixture of whale song and didgeridoo. Surely the title was meant ironically? More pastoral soundscapes were proffered with “Ahoi!” The first half delivered ambient beauty prefiguring parts of side one of Fripp + Eno’s “Evening Star” which then erupted at the song’s climax into something even more ornate and glorious.

The motorik beat of “Veterano” sounded like it was based on a distressed rhythm box… fascinating, and the soloing that Rother did over the compulsive, rolling rhythms and delicate synth loops was surprisingly close to being “bluesy.” There was a touch of wah wah where I least expected it. The closing “Hausmusik” bears only the title of the song that appeared on Karl Bartos’ 2013 album. Unlike that perky tune, this was another venture into the sort of soundscapes that Fripp + Eno liked to generate.

The Harmonia debut album seemingly led to the dissolution of Neu! but it seems that Michael Rother was over it all anyway by the time that Cluster linked up with him to make this album in the band’s commune in the woods of Germany. There was a second Harmonia album [“Deluxe”] and the group would have ended after that, but Brian Eno was passing through on the way to Berlin’s Hansa Tonstudios to record “Low” with Mr. Bowie. He was hot to record with the band so there was a third Harmonia album: “Tracks + Traces” by “Harmonia ’76 featuring Eno as fourth member. These tapes were thought lost so it was not released until 1997, but each of these other albums are calling out to me. This was excellent foundational music that not only reflected the adventurism of the past, but laid the groundwork for much adventure yet to come. Experience it below:

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About postpunkmonk

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3 Responses to Record Review: Harmonia – Musik Von Harmonia

  1. Echorich says:

    Harmonia is truly ‘sound design.” I don’t know that I can always say that about Eno’s work as I tend to get lost in the wash of his palate of musical colors. But the seemingly natural repetition at the heart of much of Harmonia helps to evoke a much more “tuned in” reaction from me. Watussi is just a monster of a track. It’s bold and throbbing, with a certain playfulness that circles around the pulsing rhythm. Sehr Kosmisch, as well as Walky Talky from the follow up, Deluxe, are space tracks that launched 1000 Post House Music® tracks in the early 1990’s by the likes of The Orb, KLF and others.
    I have to give a shout out to Tiki Taka from Documents 1975. It’s a track that young Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh MUST have known well.
    As for Harmonia 76, I have to give respect to Eno for not attempting to take over the beauty of Harmonia. Eno doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb, rather he settles into a place that is more contribute than control. Vamos Companeros and Atmosphere are stand outs.
    And finally, thank you Monk, I believe this will be a Krautrock weekend in Tampa. At least if you pass by the open windows of my place!


  2. As I put this Soundcloud session on to check it out, I realised with growing astonishment that I … I’ve heard this album before! Playing it now caused me to remember that after I discovered Kraftwerk, I began exploring their back catalog and other similar stuff, which is how I found Cluster and Neu. At the time, it all seemed like Lesser Kraftwerk to me (I’ll pause a moment while some of you gasp in horror), so I didn’t go too deeply into it back then. But at least I got to this one, and it was great to hear it again. Now I must track down Harmonia 76!


    • Echorich says:

      It’s kind of interesting chasinvictoria, but Kraftwerk didn’t hold my attention once I expanded my understanding of Kraftwerk. Once I landed on Roedelius and Moebius, I was off on a new journey.


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