Lloyd Cole and Hans-Joachim Roedelius – Selected Studies Vol. 1 + Qluster – Lauschen

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Lloyd Cole & Hans-Joachim RoedeliusSelected Studies Vol. 1 (Bureau B)

Yes, that Lloyd Cole, of The Commotions and Rattlesnakes fame, now collaborating with Roedelius, ambient pioneer and co-founder of the krautrock groups Cluster and Harmonia, and very much in Roedelius’ territory.

While the opening and closing pairs of these Selected Studies are nuanced and very pretty, the third, “Wandelbar” is a superb blend of unsettlements: slippery low-end rumble, queasy high-pitch tonnes and washes of stridulatory weirdness. Its ending sounds like a field recording from an alien insectary.

Other tracks offer trig points. “Still life with Kannyu” is a subtle blend of cloudy synth, Feneszian guitar glitches and FX’d piano. “TangoLargo” could be a classic Tangerine Dream track, albeit with added pigeons. “Fehmarn F/O” is bolder, a rococo tribute to To Rococo Rot, perhaps. Album closer “Lullerby” has some of Plone’s sweet nostalgia for 1950s futurity (whatever happened to Plone?).

This music sounds too organic to be, as it is, music composed by file share.

In 2001 Lloyd Cole made Plastic Wood (One Little Indian), an album of ambient “mood pieces”. Roedelius, apparently, loved it, versioned it with overdubs, and sent the unsolicited remix to Cole. While Roedelius’ take on Plastic Wood remains in the can, the Studies fileshare collaboration followed, with Cole and Roedelius finally meeting in person only in 2011, once the album was completed.

Anyone who likes Cluster (or Eno) should check this out, but I’m not sure what Cole’s fans will make of it, as he neither sings here, nor plays guitar; it’s a purely ambient, experimental electronic work.

Selected Studies seems an appropriate title. Although the ten tracks complement each other nicely, each has its own individuating character. Juxtaposed, they seem both hermetic and hermeneutical. It’s easy to envisage the dual layering of painstaking creative concentration that went into their realisation. I didn’t think this would be any good. Now I want to hear Vol. 2.

Qluster, Lauschen (Bureau B)

Lauschen = Listen.

Qluster, of course is the latest incarnation of Cluster ( Kluster), with Onnen Bock having replaced Dieter Moebius as Roedelius’s creative partner in November 2010.

Lauschen is Qluster’s fourth album and, like their 2011 debut, it’s a live recording (the press notes say: “nothing has been edited”). On this occasion – Berlin, February 2012 – Qluster is expanded to a trio, with the addition of “world musician” Armin Metz.

Onnen Bock plays analogue electronics. A sometime theatre sound engineer, he apparently served several years as musical assistant and audio engineer for the Berlin Philharmonic. He’s also worked with Christina Kubisch. Armin Metz usually plays a Neuser ‘Cliffhanger’ 6-string bass, sometimes as a member of the Siberian Nadishana Trio. Lauschen, however, was made “predominantly” with analogue electronic keyboards.

Each of the 9 pieces here – “Euterpe”, “Kalliope”, etc. – are named after ancient muses, and there’s a unity to them. The pace of development is languid: brittle chimes and aqueous ripples dapple washes of tenebrous Blade Runner synth melody; bass emanations spread to immerse the listener in downy sound, occasionally, as on “Erato”, expanding in vibratile blooms. Later on “Erato”, an analog percussion motif, adrift in a constellation of whistles, expands into a rotor’s whoop.

So one track flows into the next. “Terpsichore” recycles the motifs of “Erato” in more darkly ominous, queasily insistently rhythmic patterns, which in turn resolve in the singing bowl tonalities and deep, deep sonic thrum of “Polyhymnia”.

By the seventh track, “Melpomene”, the trio are a long way out, reaching for serene sonic beauty, but “Thalia” flirts with a subtle (log) drum machine pulse that keeps them grounded, and on the last track, “Klio”, much of the layered analogue synth haze is burned away, initially leaving just the sediment of a pleasantly indeterminate melody.

As a festival performance, this must have been quite some experience. The sound quality is excellent: you wouldn’t know it wasn’t recorded in a studio. At home, on a decent hi-fi, it’s great head music, but if you do opt for a chemically enhanced listening session, expect a dark trip.

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