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Cluster - Zuckerzeit CD (album) cover





3.57 | 79 ratings

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4 stars Electronic sugar cubes

1974 was definitely an important year in the history of development of electronic music. Alongside with KRAFTWERK's "Authobahn" and TANGERINE DREAM's "Phaedra", CLUSTER's "Zuckerzeit" is the last piece of the Holy Trinity of 70's electronica. Much more accessible than the freaked-out experimental long krautjams from their two first opuses and completely different from other synthesized suites of the same time period, the compositions of this third album are short titles, less improvised and more structured, with a greater usage of electronics and sound effects. Why is this disc so particular?

Whereas the men-machine of Düsseldorf will become the godfathers of electro/synth-pop, whereas TD's extended hypnotic meditative soundscapes announce the techno/trance of the 90's, Roedelius and Moebius explore another path, populated with little electronic creatures living on their own in an ethereal and out-of-time place. The approach goes a little further than other bands and foreshadows 90's electronica, more precisely the so-called "IDM", such as APHEX TWIN and early AUTECHRE. Even more ahead of its time than their fellow countrymen, this minimalistic post-electronic music succeeds at emancipating from its krautrock roots and Moog brothers by proposing very futuristic and modern tracks, seeming to come from another world (and another decade too). Furthermore, the beats are also quite unusual and inventive for the 70's, 15 years before the second electronic revolution. Incredible!

Curiously, the two musicians have not collaborated for this record. They composed five titles each, their styles being entirely opposite. Hans-Joachim Roedelius' compositions are the white sugar cubes, spacey, relaxing and accessible, whereas Dieter Moebius' are the brown sugar cubes, darker, more disturbed and aggressive. The contrast is thrilling. As a result, the listener is constantly switching between ambiances, alternating peaceful and rockier passages.

This approach and opposition will also be present one year later in another important "eleckraut" album of the decade, "Neu!75", with Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger. Interesting when you know Rother is the third member of HARMONIA alongside with the CLUSTER duo, as well as "Zuckerzeit"'s coproducer.

More calm and spacey, Roedelius' tracks are my favorite. The mesmerizing drops of "Hollywood" will make you directly travel through the stars. This title has certainly influenced APHEX TWIN in his youth. Magnificent! The soothing crystalline "Rosa" is rather contemplative, nearly melancholic, like a delicate pocket universe. "Fotschi Tong" and "Marzipan" are peaceful and playful Asian passages, while the finale "Heiße Lippen" is just sublime, in the style of "NEU!'75", a genuine open window on the future to come... Voluptuous and magic, needless to say more...

Moebius' compositions are also rather good but more demanding and uneven. "Caramel" is somber, repetitive, and possesses a really modern beat. Only track to exceed 5 minutes, "Rote Riki" sounds like a ramshackle old computer out of control. Dissonant, a bit too long, nonetheless futuristic. However, the title the most ahead of its time may be "Caramba". Despite its threatening krautrock background... was this pre-techno music really recorded in the 70's? In contrast, the intruder of this record is the guitar-driven "James". With its bizarre introduction, this slowed down krautblues reminds a little NEU!'s "Super 16". "Rotor" is my least favorite passage of the album, quickly becoming irritating. Fortunately, this is also the shortest.

With "Zuckerzeit", CLUSTER definitely opens a new musical universe up. The German duo can be considered as the APHEX TWINs of the 70's. As for the English autodidact, their titles are little independent synthetic creatures, living and growing on their own, exhibiting two opposite faces: the light side, relaxing, ethereal and dreamy, and the dark side, disturbing, like a mad machine. Although overshadowed by their electronic brothers, this groundbreaking third opus is highly influential and truly visionary for the 70's, going beyond krautrock and Berlin School, with beats and arrangements unheard before.

Both vintage and incredibly modern, both imperfect and breathtaking, "Zuckerzeit" is a milestone, simply essential for anyone interested in the history of electronic music, as well as for fans or 90's electronica, such APHEX TWIN and AUTECHRE.

Modrigue | 4/5 |


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