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Cluster - Cluster & Eno CD (album) cover





3.43 | 56 ratings

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4 stars By 1977 Brian Eno had shrugged off his feather boas and was cultivating a prescient interest in minimalism, just in time to avoid the terminal bombast eroding Progressive Rock's higher ideals at the end of the decade. In a year that saw the release of Pink Floyd's inflated "Animals" and ELP's even more pompous "Works, Volume 1", it's no wonder the ex-Roxy Music hermaphrodite cut his hair short and turned his creative gaze toward Germany, where a rebel subculture of kindred pioneers like Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius was quietly dismantling the electronic music rule book.

In retrospect the collaboration was more Eno than Cluster, extending the former's "Music For Films" project, in construction at exactly the same time. The nine brief doodles presented here don't exactly qualify as ambient soundtrack fodder, but they show a similar, highly evolved sense of near-subliminal understatement: rich in atmosphere and nuance, and purposely designed to have an almost negligible impact.

Under the reliable guidance of producer/guru Conny Plank - the invisible fourth member of the trio - the album made an admirable virtue of its compositional modesty. The opening "Ho Renomo", featuring Can's Holger Czukay on bass guitar, is a notable highlight: five hypnotic minutes of undiluted Krautrock mesmerism, the sound of a treasured childhood memory recalled in dreams.

The six-minute "One" (Eno spelled backward of course, and by far the album's longest track) is another obvious standout. Like so much else in the 1970s it looked east for way of the planet Neptune, in this case. That persistent drone was the work of Dutch sitar enthusiast Okko Bekker, who would rejoin Plank and Moebius the following year on the self-titled Liliental album.

Eno, Moebius and Roedelius would likewise meet again (see: "After the Heat", 1978). But the sequel, while excellent in its own way, lacked the surprising novelty of the original: a revelation of sorts in 1977, and still worth hearing when the pace of modern life becomes too hectic.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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