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Hans-Joachim Roedelius - Durch die Wüste

Hans-Joachim Roedelius
Durch die Wüste

Released 1978 on Sky
Reviewed by Lugia, 21/03/2005ce

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: "Durch die Wüste"
Sky Records sky 014, recorded May 1976/January 1978, released 1978.
Reissued 1995 by Gyroscope: GYR 6626-2 and Sky: SKYCD 3051.

Side 1:
1) Am Rockzipfel
2) Durch die Wüste

Side 2:
1) Johanneslust
2) Glaubersalz
3) Mr. Livingstone I suppose
4) Regenmacher

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: keyboards, percussion, vocal, strings, bass, editing
Konrad Plank: percussion, guitar, synthesizer, mixer
Joso Christo: guitars, bass
Dieter Moebius: synthesizer

Hans-Joachim Roedelius is, as most devotees of Krautrock should know, one half of the legendary electronics duo Cluster. And actually, the very last track here technically IS Cluster, with the addition of Conny Plank on synth and percussion.

Roedelius has released numerous solo albums over the years, most notably the multipart 'Selbsportrait' series. And in general, these are pretty, ambient-tinged affairs for the most part. Not quite so here. Roedelius's first solo effort is a more complex sort of album, encompassing some aspects that we're more accustomed to on his later efforts...but also, throwing in more than enough avant-garde touches to color the whole thing up in a much different manner than those who're used to those later albums might expect.

The first side of this is, technically, one long track, but it breaks up into a number of smaller 'subsections'...not simply the two tracks listed in the linter notes. "Am Rockzipfel" starts off with a few hamfisted keyboard and drum plods, then jumps off into what sounds to my ear to be something like movie music...something missing out of some 1970s cop film, all funky and fuzztone and minor-toned. But jumping into this at intervals are little ambienty touches, breaks. You definitely get an impression of multiple ideas at play, very quickly...which is a good thing, because abruptly the cop-music STOPS...and whooshes off into synth wind/breathing sounds. This is where the title track begins, technically...although that title track really breaks into 'chunks', some of which are downright weird. Wind...barnyard noises?...and then a little bit of very Roedelius e-piano precede some genuine strangeness of tape loops, percussive oddness, creepy scat/shout-vocals, and off-key sci-fi synth. This yowls up to a climax...and stops dead...and then the underpinning loops/drum/vocal/weirdness just continues again, like someone flipped a switch to turn it back on. After a space, this just jumbles around thru some hack-chop tape edits into a spacy, sweeping, expressive, cinematic synthi slow-build of harmonies, progressing slowly toward some imaginary final fadeout and credit sequence.

Odd. Definitely odd. Those expecting the usual Roedelius ambi-type goings on should...well, turn the record over. And there you'll find "Johanneslust", which should dispel any worries that perhaps you'd not bought a Hans-Joachim Roedelius album after all. A modification of a track found also on Harmonia's "Tracks and Traces", this is very much in the usual proto-newage-type style one gets acccustomed to on his later efforts. And you could almost say the same of the waltz (yes, a proper waltz!) "Glaubersalz"...save for the end, where everything goes all creepy and bent-out-of-tune, as if the whole thing were concocted by some sort of computer that's now grinding down during some brownout.

"Mr. Livingstone...", though...just plain odd. One could deduce from the title that Roedelius was going for some sort of 'African' thing here, but the results just don't come out like that. Instead, it's nifty ambient cartoony-Chinese music. Seriously. Almost stereotypically so, in fact, save that there's again that point that this doesn't SEEM like what had been intended. It's not a bad track...just that you can tell it's something of a 'not quite there' effort, but one which still works in amongst the cheeziness of it.

But "Regenmacher"...ahhh, yes...Cluster together on the final track. And what a track it is. Moebius's see-sawing, non-scaled, bent-note synth solos all over the top of a percussive, driving, pulsating underlay from Roedelius and Plank. What 'Africa' the previous track lacks seems to have all drained into here, with its futurist-tribal groove and taped SFX weirdnesses of wind, evocative of some dried out locale on the Sahel. A year after this album, Cluster would release "Grosses Wasser", with its monumental side-long title track, and those familiar with that work will certainly find the germinative seeds of it in this one.

In fact, if one were to compare it to a routine Cluster album, the comparisons would seem to work best with "Grosses Wasser" as a whole, despite the chronological 'dating' of the bulk of the work on it to around the period of the Harmonia + Brian Eno collaboration "Tracks and Traces". Certainly, there's aspects to "Durch die Wüste" that aren't part of the formulations that would later make up that subsequent Cluster work, but at the same time you can clearly hear ideas here being tested, explored, accepted, and rejected that would go into the makeup of "Grosses Wasser". As such, it's certainly a significant 'companion piece' to that album...as well as recommended 'get' for anyone into the whole Cologne-style of Kraut. Certainly much more than a 'completist' recording, which is a charge one might easily level at some of Hans-Joachim Roedelius's much later solo works.

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