Qluster emerged in 2011 when Hans-Joachim Roedelius joined forces with Onnen Bock to reform a version of the project he has been pursuing since 1971, first as Kluster, then Cluster, and now with a “Q”. Roedelius, a musical legend in his own lifetime, is one third of a Kosmiche trinity with Dieter Moebius and Michael Rother. Together they formed Cluster and later Harmonia. Moebius died in 2015, but Rother is still performing with Neu!, his subsequent musical legacy. Meanwhile, Roedelius reforges K/C/Qluster to fit his evolving musical direction. Whilst Qluster only came into being in 2011, Echtzeit is the new band’s fourth album, with Armin Metz now making up a trio.
Echtzeit, German for “real time”, describes Qluster’s new album precisely. The music is quiet, low key, and enthralling. Each track evolves within its own time zone, drawing the listener into hermetically sealed compartments. Inside, the era is impossible to name – any time post-synthesiser – and the genre is as much classical as rock. Solo keyboard lines are augmented by gentle sound effects from far-away synthesisers. On tracks such as ‘Vereweile Doch’ (which translates as ‘But Linger’) and ‘Best Freunde’ (translation unnecessary) the space within the music seems vast, as though the instruments were recorded at either end of a galaxy. The delicate interplay of counterpoint lines, recalls Steve Reich, as well Tim Hecker’s Virgins. ‘Von weite Ferne Ganz nah’ (something about distant and close) is an intensely meditative swirl, while ‘Das seltsame Tier aus dem Norden’ (‘The Strange Animal From the North’) is a slow burning space epic, complete with antiquated communications equipment ringing out across time and space. It is as though Brian Eno had continued his ambient trajectory from the 1970s, developing even deeper, stranger and more inevitable music.
Qluster, using only analogue instruments, built an utterly confident, all encompassing soundscape which is richly rewarding. Repeated listens are absolutely essential to appreciate the subtle delights on offer. Snatches of forgotten tunes, radio bleeps, delicious synth effects – everything you might want in your head is folded away somewhere within Echtzeit.