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Cluster - Cluster & Eno CD (album) cover





3.43 | 47 ratings

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3 stars Oh man, this album is so ... so ... German. Yes, I know this is to be expected given that this is a collaboration with Cluster, one of the early pioneers of German electronica, but even after steeling myself with that knowledge, there's still just too much stern, cold, robotism here for my taste. Yes, a decent number of tracks manage to sneak a bit of humanity and even beauty into the sound, but way too much of this is the kind of stone- faced emotionless wankery that fits in too perfectly with my prejudiced stereotypes of German music.

I mean, when the All-music Guide says that "Schone Hande" (I know there are supposed to be dots over the o and a in that name, but I'm too lazy to look up the proper html codes for them) and "Steinsame" are "emotionally rich," all I can think is that Germans and lovers of German music have really screwed up definitions of emotional richness. "Schone Hande" has a somewhat intriguing "wobbly" synth sound, but the trio doesn't really do anything with it (and no, I don't think all the blips and plunks in the background count), and "Steinsame"'s synth sound is so ugly and so opposite of the kind of sound I like to hear from Eno (I mean, this is practically the negative of the glorious sound produced by, say, "Becalmed") that I can't stand it. And "One," well, the less said about that the better; that there's some ugly use of sitar (or whatever it is that's imitating it) feedback, and that it lasts six minutes doesn't help.

Of the other six tracks, "Selange" doesn't really stand out for better or for worse, but the other five interest me enough to at least drive the album's rating up to a low ***. The opening "Ho Renomo" has some very pretty piano tinklings that are overlaid with some quiet rhythmic organy synths, some sounds that kinda strike me as the synth equivalent of hitting an anvil with a hammer and a bunch of "buzzing" sounds that instantly remind me of the album's cover. "Wehrmut" is dark and foreboding, but in a good way (the darkest elements come from the lowest-pitched repetitions of the track's main four-note theme), the minute-and-a-half "Mit Simaen" has a perverse sort of beauty in its simple melody, and "Die Bunge" has the album's one slight glimpse of levity with a goofy "galloping" rhythmic line that sounds like a cross between part of a Western movie and the music on a carnival merry-go-round. And finally, closing out the album is the best track here, the strangely beautiful "Fur Luise," which is a bunch of lovely sustained chords with swirling "woo" noises that get longer and louder and weirder as the piece progresses. It sounds interesting, but more than that I find it really moving; it's kinda like what I would expect to hear in the background during a particularly emotional moment of a high quality sci-fi or fantasy movie.

Still, while these five tracks are quite nice, the rest of the album irritates me enough that I can't give this a high grade. It's particularly disappointing given that I enjoy the second Cluster/Eno collaboration, After the Heat, as much as I do. There's certainly good reason for a major fan of German electronica to want this, but casual Eno fans probably shouldn't bother.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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