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3 stars Unlike Cluster's later albums, which were often characterized by drum machines anchoring simple, repetitious keyboard melodies, this album is strictly drones. It sounds a lot like some of the drone pieces on the first Harmonia album. Slightly dissonant rather than relaxing, the music can have a pleasing hypnotic effect on the listener who decides to go with the flow. Otherwise, it can be grating and tedious. My advice is to listen to this only when you're in the mood for something that drifts along in an unsettling manner.
Report this review (#45200)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Three experimental electronic pieces made after the departure of Conrad Schnitzler (Kluster). The principles of composition prefigure what we can hear on Cluster II: long abstract & "visceral" soundscapes using echo-machines, microphones, and aleatoric electronic "collages". The music is constantly impressive, giving a certain "claustrophobic" atmosphere. Track 1 starts with electronic noises and repetitive, obsessional electronic patterns. After 5 minutes of tormenting effects, the music includes different primitive synth sounds and cyclical, electronic rotations. No melody here but a very evocative mental picture, maybe the sound of nightmare or bad dreams. The tension goes higher during the last minutes. The pulsation is changing, exploring the place of emotional "trance". Track 2 begins with some vibrant, linear, oppressive industrial sounds, floating into the room. The orchestration features "fuzzy" accentuations, sustained synth chords and some noisy arrangements. As in the previous compositions, the last track contains some minimalist, "hypnotic", circular motifs in the background. A "monochord" surrounds the deep spheric place. We can hear similar materials in Cluster II. Without any doubts the best Cluster with the following one: psycho-electronic works focused on mechanical and organic "assaults".
Report this review (#81283)
Posted Friday, June 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars When Cluster first started their career, they were one of the most adventurous and influential duo, to this day remain one of the unsung pair of heroes of Krautrock, with our great collab Philippe Blache championing them. While Tangerine Dream already existed for a few years but the time of this album's release, it is clear that TD did listen to Cluster's debut and obviously inspired their future pink-era works on this album. But one must know that a previous incarnation of this band (that is Kraut grandfather Rodellius and his younger Moebius colleague) existed before and they were spelled Kluster as a trio with another legend Konrad Schnitzler, who was also in Tangerine Dream. (Are you sure you are following me?)

While the music is still quite similar with their Kluster days (although they are a duo now instead of a trio then), the music is completely instrumental (if you can consider this electronic stuff instrumental) and the radical poets reading their texts are now gone. The result is that the album was much better received by the public and critics alike since it was not catalogued as radical Polit Rock. But just like their previous two album, the three tracks were still unnamed, which of course can be confusing and unnecessarily minimalist. If I spoke of electronic music, it is only partly true as there are a few instruments and very few real synths: we are dealing with organs through pedal effects, cello, slide guitars and electronic devices. Stuck in the middle of the cold war in the West Berlin enclave like their cross-town rivals TD, this strange cold, doom-like atmosphere was probably responsible for this free form music hovering between Musique Concrete and free-jazz all laced in with saturated amplifiers.

The album was extremely well recorded by virtual honorary member, the producer Konrad Plank and the music is rather stunning, but not easily accessible. If you are familiar with TD's Zeit or Atem, this is about as accurate as humanly possible. A stunning album, but can this be recommended to everyone? I think not.

Report this review (#95726)
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I can't imagine what people thought when they heard this music nearly four decades ago. Even today it sounds beamed in from another planet and another time. Cluster somehow made huge droning noisescapes into exceptionally listenable ambient music. The extent of this music's influence is immeasurable, and the first two Cluster albums are far more exciting to me than the more famous equivalents from their brethren Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. I love Kraftwerk, and don't mind TD, but damn, I think Cluster beat both of them to the punch for this type of music. Of course, after the first two Cluster albums, Hans-Joachim and Dieter (not to mention Ralf and Florian) decided to emphasize melody and song form over atmostphere and sound collage, but that doesn't detract from this music's importance, and this type of music is alluded to quite often in their later song-oriented material, especially in Harmonia.

Krautfans who like their Kraut to be a little light on the rock must hear both this and Cluster II.

Report this review (#98339)
Posted Saturday, November 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars As others have mentioned when the band KLUSTER lost one of it's members(he went solo) they became a duo and called themselves CLUSTER. The music here is similar to KLUSTER but without the spoken texts.

This is the spaciest music I have ever heard ! I mean there is no melody at all only these dark, haunting soundscapes filled with atmosphere. I love it ! I can't believe there are no synths used on this either, rather they used echo machines and sound generators along with dual organs, guitar, cello and violin. Again these instruments were used to make sounds not melodies. This music really fascinates me, especially considering it was 1971. There are three tracks but no song titles.

The first song is my favourite, it's dark and at times haunting with waves of sound and pulses. It can be loud one moment and ambient the next. Pastoral then freaky. It's a trip.

This is one of these recording where describing it doesn't do it justice, it has to be heard to be believed. Interesting that TANGERINE DREAM released "Alpha Centauri" the same year because in some ways these two albums are like cousins to each other. Easily 4 stars.

Report this review (#170278)
Posted Thursday, May 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Cluster is a lesser known exponent of the early '70's progressive electronic scene from Germany. But when comparing their debut to other electronic pioneering albums, it is not only one of the most impressive ones, it was also far ahead of the better known early works from Tangerine Dream, Schulze and Ash Ra Tempel.

The innovative lead does not come from the way the composed the pieces but from the astonishing electronic sounds that they managed to create. This album sounds like nothing else around that time and like little else since. Only Schulze's Cyborg and TD's Zeit come to mind. Cluster 71 a very dark and haunting work, with subtle layers of sound that weave evocative abstract cosmic patterns. Really, this music sounds as weird as my description is inadequate.

Not only can Cluster claim an original and ground-breaking position in the field, they also managed to craft a highly experimental album that is great to listen to. At least if you don't need repeated melodies to hang on to. But if you are willing to go with the unpredictable and mysterious flow of this music, get aboard on this voyage.

3.5 stars, just a bit below albums like Cyborg and Zeit that would expand the groundwork laid out here.

Report this review (#281208)
Posted Monday, May 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Some reviewers have mentioned their surprise that no synthesizers were used in the recording of 'Cluster 71' but what surprises me more is that such archaic devices as guitars and cellos were in fact employed, because conventional music graces us with its absence from the album. Be warned, its mysterious auditory explorations are about as far as you'll get from standard melody and rhythm while the lack of track titles further reinforces the disorientating nature of the music. This album is so impenetrable that it doesn't erect mere earthworks in its defence but throws up entire mountainsides.

The warped sounds and primal monotony of 'Cluster 71' are also the stuff of nightmarish space opera, so the next time you're alone late at night and obsessing about what music to listen to it might be best not to play this because it could just scare the sweet bejeebus out of you. It isn't so much a ready-roasted turkey flying into your mouth as a synthetic toxin for you to choke on.

The first track alone is like some industrial hell-world that's under the spell of Cocteau's kick, and where the mournful screaming of the Banshee echoes through the depths of timeless time to the rhythmical cla-clank of its metallic beating heart. And the remainder of this device- driven racket of an album sounds as if it's inhabited by other shapeless phantoms, all-seeing tyrants and abandoned interstellar hulks that all in all represent a very disturbing world of electronic expressionism.

'Cluster 71' is a work of pure menace and perhaps its major importance lies in its power to evoke such vivid mental images. I need to be in a certain frame of mind to listen to this album but it's possible with a little imagination to really lose myself in it without doping the jockey as well as the horse.

Report this review (#561047)
Posted Tuesday, November 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've always wondered why this and a few subsequent Cluster albums have been referred to as Krautrock because there's no rock to be found here. This immaginative and sometimes horrifying sound exploration contains just about every electronic device known to mankind. The only two conventional instruments I could identify when I first heard the work back in the seventies was an over-driven wah wahed out guitar and an electric cello, besides that there was just a conflagration of freak knows what, audio generators, tape loops amplifier feedback and whatever Hans Joachim Roedelious and Dieter Moebius, two left-over members from a previous electronic experimental trio, could think of.

The largely improvised work ( don't look for any sheet music for this one ) doesn't rock swing or groove and is devoid any melody, harmony or rhythm and doesn't approach anything that is remotely musically redeemable and seems to drone on and on directionlessly. This is what Oscar Peterson's nightmares were made of, yet many critics managed to extrapolate depth and read deep meanings into it's extreme abstractness. It's easy to percieve this audio experiment as two guys going nuts in the studio creating a bunch of strange noises and impressions but this is not the case at all once one gives the three extended untitled sections a few listens. These guys were obviously musically literate at the time this frankenstein was recorded in 1971. I don't think that below par musicians could have created a work of this calibre bearing mind that they do use conventional instruments as a sort of foundation. Both play some sort of organ as well as the aforementioned guitar and cello. The work does have certain dynamic approach and each effect is introduced unexpectedly. Cluster would expand on this formula somewhat on their second album gradually streamlining their music thereafter.

An open mind is certainly required for this sonic masterpiece. It can mean anything or it can mean nothing depending on how the listener approaches it. So, put the cat out strap yourself into the ejection seat and crank this baby to eleven and blast off to another dimensional plane.

Report this review (#646675)
Posted Monday, March 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Dark and almost atonal drones which were recorded a staggering 41 years ago by two members of the far noisier 'Kluster' - the band Conrad Schnitzler created.

There's a lot of pitch alteration, effects pedals, oscillators, ring modulators and tone generators used throughout which keeps things feeling fresh. Part one is quite layed back when compared with more the more mechanical and nightmarish sounding parts two and three. The whole album sounds like a Soviet nuclear plant with a serious internal problem that no one can repair.

These are proto industrial drones that, around ten years later were all the rage with bands such as Konstruktivists, Non, Coil and SPK. I guess this is where it all began... Hamburg, January 1971.

This would make an excellent alternative soundtrack on board the 'Nostromo' in the original 'Alien' film. It's that creepy! In fact at many points you could be forgiven if you thought you were listening to Tangerine Dream's 'Alpha Centauri' or 'Zeit'. Phillips must have had a nightmare of a time trying to market this, as there's no vocals, no chance of a single and not even tune titles.

It's just a pity that Moebius' cover artwork is so poor. It's not at all in keeping with the sound of the music. However, with well written liner notes, a decent re-mastering job, in which a lot of hiss has been removed, leaves this album with a very respectable 4 stars.

Report this review (#812817)
Posted Friday, August 31, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first album from the newly abbreviated Cluster (after parting ways with Conrad Schnitzler) probably disturbed a lot of sensitive minds at the dawn of the 1970s, and it can still threaten your sanity when heard today. Softening their name from the more Teutonic KLUSTER didn't immediately change the music, if in fact this dystopian noise can even be classified as music, a debatable point even now.

The remaining duo of Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were known at the time for generating sounds instead of playing music, but what a sound it was. Harsh, atonal, abstract, mechanical, and more than a little scary: like the better German bands of that era providing the perfect sonic escape hatch from an unsavory national past. But the results were far removed from the interstellar meditations of other Krautrockers, even kindred cybernetic rebels like the embryonic TANGERINE DREAM, fellow travelers at the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in Berlin and related to Cluster through the common denominator of Conny Schnitzler.

Moebius and Roedelius weren't interested in exploring the cosmos; they were too busy dissecting their brave new electronic world from inside the machine, looking out. Even within the freewheeling musical landscape of the German counterculture this was pretty extreme stuff, shattering every convention of melody and rhythm, and daring the listener to pick up the pieces. Just when you imagine there might be a hint of some harmonic stability to grab hold of, the floor shifts again and that illusory safety net is pulled away, leaving you in exhilarating freefall once again.

My advice is to forget about the soft landing and simply go with the flow. It's not as if you have much of a choice: you won't even find a convenient parachute in the album name or track titles, which merely catalogue when it was recorded and the length of each segment.

One silver lining is that the album still sounds remarkably contemporary. Unlike other early experiments in electronic music this one hasn't aged a day in over forty years, partly because it avoids the easy clichés of the time: endless sequencer arpeggios and so forth. Later Cluster albums would follow a more user-friendly approach, but in 1971 their avant- garde edge was sharp enough to draw blood.

Report this review (#824146)
Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars Although they are often lumped into the world of Krautrock, CLUSTER really belongs in the world of progressive experimental electronic music. At least the first few albums that i have heard because there is really no elements of rock on board here and this is more in line with the Berlin School world of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream than with the Krautrock world of Can and Amon Düül II that emphasizes the rock. However, the term "Krautrock" is a nebulous one and connotes a sense of otherworldliness and trippiness above all else so nomenclature aside this is one of the MOST surreal and psychedelic releases i have ever heard. Even beginning with the second album "Cluster II," this duo begins to tone things down a bit on the surreal scale and concentrates more on the melodic rather than the abstract, but on this debut release, officially an eponymous title which has been given the nickname CLUSTER 71, there is unrestrained abstractness that seemingly takes you to the far reaches of the universe and back. This is also the only album i can recall that has three sprawling tracks where the titles of the tracks are the same as their time durations: 7:42, 15:43, 21:32.

This duo actually began under the moniker Kluster which included Conrad Schnitzler as the third member. The group was short-lived releasing only 2 studio albums and 1 live in 1970-71. Schnitzler would go on to have a prolific solo career but was also involved in all of the following: Berlin Express, Con-Hertz, Eruption, Feedback, Conrad Schnitzler & Bjørn Hatterud, CS & Wolf Sequenza and even Tangerine Dream. That left the duo of Moebius (also in Cosmic Couriers, Harmonia, Liliental, Moebius & Plank, Space Explosion, Project Undark) and Hans-Joachim Roeelius (also in Aquarello, A.R.S.(e), Harmonia, Human Being, Lunz and the continuation of this group Qluster). This debut album also includes a third member Konrad Plank on electronics, effects and also as a producer. He would go on many projects including Can, Eno, Eurythmics, Neu! and even the Scorpions and more.

This is very strange abstract music. Personally i feel like i've entered the quantum world when i listen to this. I feel like a little stray electron that has been displaced from its parent atom and am traveling through into the extreme microscopic in a place where space and time have totally different properties. In a way, what comes to mind is that i feel like i am a tiny particle bombarded through the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland and my experience is meeting my fellow inhabitants of the quantum world and the musical equivalent of their frequencies and universal vibrations. While there is a basic drone ambience that is in play for most of this sonic experience, the different sounds that accompany this make me feel like i'm saying "hey there" lepton, "wassup z boson?" and "how's it goin', quark?" While listening to this it makes you wonder how in the world did they achieve these sounds in 1971.

This was a clear evolution from the proto-industrial sounds of Kluster. These sounds were not created on keyboards. They utilized the sounds of organs, Hawaiian guitar, cello and used audio generators as well played by Moebius and Roedelius and then the final ingredient was Conrad Plank electronic manipulation to tweak and distort the sounds to create the bizarre sonic worlds that they achieved. Truly light years ahead of the competition in the trippiness department. CLUSTER was taking music freaks into strange new worlds that could never have been foreseen a mere ten years earlier before even The Beatles made a dent into the musical world displaying just how far music had evolved in an ever so short period of history. Blows my mind. I personally find this to be my favorite CLUSTER album. This is uncompromising in every way.

Report this review (#1395747)
Posted Wednesday, April 8, 2015 | Review Permalink

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