Bureau B opens the vaults back up on the 1982 electronic and ambient record “Wasser im Wind” from Cluster’s Roedelius
Hamburg, Germany based label Bureau B have been working very closely with one of the pioneers of electronic, ambient and experimental music: Hans-Joachim Roedelius. As one of the founding members of Kluster and what would more commonly be known as Cluster, Roedelius rose out of the legendary Krautrock scene during the shifting era of the late 60’s into the 70’s. Nureau B has been releasing many of the solo records of Roedelius that were put out in the 70’s and 80’s from the famous German label Sky Records. I recently got my hands on one of their reissues, Wasser im Wind and after over a dozen listens later, I am now heavily archiving many of the Roedelius related transgression of mainstream ideologies through album form that I never knew existed. His total output and quality over the last 40 years is prolific, stunning and jaw dropping to say the least.
It’s hard to believe that by the time Wasser im Wind came out in 1982, Roedelius had already completed over 10 records with Kluster/Cluster, 9 solo records along with various other projects that came about with the likes of Brian Eno and others. Mind you, this was all in the period of a year or two beyond a decade. Roedelius was already embedded into the fabric and pulse of electronic music by the tim 1982 rolled around. There has never been a phase in electronic music that didn’t include him since his debut record with Kluster. In the purest and most honest way to approach music, Roedelius has continued the evolution of his Cluster project in recent years. With a third break up under the Cluster name, the Bureau B label and Roedelius have embarked on a new series of releases under the name of Qluster with Onnen Bock joining Roedeleius. Since May of this year, two LP’s have already been released: Fragren and Rufen.
New synthesizer technology was becoming more accessible to the youth at the turn of the 60’s and Germany utilized this collectively like no other region of the world. Very rarely does a genre have more definition in the idea of individuality and evolution of sound with acoustics and electronics among colleagues in one country than it does with musical scales and theory. This rarity occurred with Roedelius and the movement known as Krautrock. Roedleius was releasing all of his solo records with Sky Records, a Hamburg, Germany based label run by former Brain Records associate Günter Körber. Günter Körber had left Brain to start his own label and his relationships with the bands from Brain afforded him a healthy cast of a whose who list of Krautrock pioneers to join him. The label was only 3 years old when Roedelius released his first record Durch die Wüste (1978) with them. Only 5 years after the debut outing of Durch die Wüste, Roedelius was releasing his 10th solo record on the label with Wasser im Wind.
For anyone into the works of Cluster, you will be familiar with the dense, murky avant-garde sonic work outs found all over their catalog. Experimental music of the 70’s went clear across the board and Cluster still holds ranks as one of the most influential in Europe and one of the most outward bands. In the mid 70’s, the members of Cluster had formed a very close working relationship with fellow electronic pioneer of their time, Brian Eno. In 1977 Brian Eno, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and ever present Dieter Moebius constructed an album with the help of Can bassist Holger Czukay and Germany avant-garde composer Asmus Tietchens on synthesizer called Cluster & Eno. Also released on Sky Records, this album propelled Roedelius into a world where solo releases around his main projects was possible.
The releases from Roedelius after Cluster and Eno would come at the world in a rapid and intense manner and Roedelius would further explore other sounds outside of the avante-garde. By the earlyy 80’s, Cluster had begun what would prove to be a very long hiatus. This hiatus gave Roedelius further room to expand his solo career. Wasser im Wind culminates all of his projects in a way that reflects this hiatus and resting period of an electronic band who went 10+ years strong. Brian Eno had a huge influence as well and his voice comes through loud and clear with Wasser im Wind.
What makes Wasser im Wind so unique is the inclusion of guitarist, bassist and engineer Eric Spitzer-Marlyn along with saxophone player Alexander Czjzek. Both would work extensively with Roedelius in the future and this was the beginning of that relationship. Czjzek plays on 3 of the 9 songs and is not as present but his instrument brings a very different relationship to the music of Roedelius. This is the kind of record that is easy to enjoy on many levels, with the headphone experience providing the most intense feeling.
The voice of Cluster had gone away from Roedelius in his late 70’s and early 80’s solo releases. Wasser im Wind brings back the voice of Cluster on many of the songs back for one last auditory celebration. With long wave like synthesizer sheets that oscillate around the mix, there is an ongoing imaginative and ancient like tone that springs forth in all of the songs. The vocal addition from Roedelius in the song ‘Zwei Sind Eins’ creates a very omnipresent feeling that would work perfectly in a scene of Dune or Blade Runner. The pulsating and loop of synthesizer keeps the song grounded in the era it was created in with the vocals and layering of further synth creates a very mystical presence.
There is a lot of pulse like synthesizer parts with the songs without saxophone, while the songs that do have saxophone bubble and rise out of the depths of something deeper and more foggy. ‘Immergrun’ shows a marvelous display of natural piano with saxophonist Czjzek soaring around all over the elegant sound. Classical, contemplative and experimental, it’s a completely natural sounding piece and shifts the tonality of the album drastically. Talk about dynamics. On the piece ‘Auf Des Tigers Spur’, guitarist Eric Spitzer-Marlyn lets loose and shows his presence in a way more commonly used by a guitarist. The first time I heard this LP I didn’t even realize guitar was being used until this moment came. Then further listens revealed how tricky and clever his guitar masks itself with the usage of effects and how that models the synthesizer in place.
‘Wasser im Wind’, the title track of the album is my favorite number. Long and stretched out swirls of synthesizer wash over gently like crashes of waves that overlap each other. There is a sound that permeates in the background, almost a sign of distress. Rhe saxophone is drenched in delay with a very eerie slow bubbling series of note configurations. There is something waiting to burst out and the use of restraint and tonality is superb and surreal. A little over 5 minutes, it reflects the ancient tones found in a lot of the Cluster records where the use of electronics modifies itself to include a voice and soul. The inclusion of a sample from the beach with a sea gull is faintly interjected faster than it can be grabbed by the common listen. This album is full of that type of surprise and non obvious depth.
With Wasser im Wind, the post production of the album and the panning and positioning of the sounds is just as important as gear and conceptual elements of harmony present. The Drummer One rhythm machine is boldly brought back into the mix, a feature of many of the old Cluster albums. The post production elements mentioned before bring out distinct tonal qualities in each song that reflect how much detail was put into the minimalistic and subtle nuances from song to song. When I first heard Wasser im Wind, it didn’t hit me as strong as when I put on headphones and dialed myself in right. By the time I got to the end on my dozen listen or so, there was a cerebral calming that occurred over me, a reflection of my own musical past and what I valued in sound. Music that can at times peaceful and serene and others dark and mischievous is a reflection of the compassion and vision the German arts community had in the 70’s in the world of electronics. Listening to this album liberates me from the trappings of not connecting beauty when thinking of Germany from the obvious history the country is most commonly known for.
Wasser im Wind is an incredible nod to the past and a hint of the future in electronic pioneering. There is a perfect balance of conventional and unconventional ideologies of sound present. Electronic derivatives of sound since the 70’s such as trance, jungle, dubstep, beat music, and so much more all have origins in the forging of electronic culture by the Krautrokc pioneers Cluster and its core members. Roedelius gave breath and energy to this movement and it’s beautiful to see him still doing his thing in the world of electronics 40 years later. He will be a permanent landing point for anyone who ventures into the legacy of electronic music and this reissue is just as important to that legacy as any of the pivotal albums from Cluster. Wasser im Wind is a very important and long awaited reissue.
- Erik Otis
Wasser im Wind
Sky Records 1982
Reissued with Bureau B 2011
- Der Ruf der Ferne
- Am Stadtrand
- Zwei sind eins
- Auf des Tigers Spur
- Wasser im Wind
- Heilsamer Brunnen
- lFenster im Schnee
Sound Colour Vibration photographer and head of our film department Erick R. Wilczynski documented a recent Roedelius performance in Los Angeles at the Echo. Curated by Dublab and held on Ocober 27th, the event showcased Roedelius doing what he does best: a crash course, live guide book and amalgamation of the modern electronic music his colleagues and himself pioneered and branded for the world to share. Check out a small sample of the full photo set we will be posting soon.