German Electronic Pioneer Comes To The Chapel

By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — One of the pioneering figures of the German electronic movement that began in the late 1960s, Hans-Joachim Roedelius co-founded the groundbreaking avant-garde group Kluster (later Cluster) and helped create an influential body work that laid the foundation of ambient, experimental and electronic rock for decades to come.

Along with his principle collaborator Dieter Moebius and early creative partner Conrad Schnitzler, Roedelius helped found the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, a venue that encouraged sonic experiments and proved to be the workshop for a host of future krautrock artists including Tangerine Dream (who Schnitzler also recorded with), Klaus Schulz and Ash Ra Temple. There Roedelius explored droning improvisation and musique concrete incorporating sounds from household objects on the first three albums under the Kluster moniker before he and Moebius split off as a duo.

The duo initially continued to mine an abrasive, menacing style of almost proto-industrial noise and spacious drone on it’s first couple of efforts. But by the time they started collaborating with guitarist Michael Rother (later of Neu! and Dusseldorf) on the seminal recording Zuckerzeit in 1973, Cluster had moved from cosmic epics to concise instrumental songs filled with haunting melodies that prefigured the ’90s indie synth pop music of Stereolab.

The fruitful collaborations continued with Rother on Cluster albums, live tours as a trio and the 1974 kosmiche landmark Musik von Harmonia under the group name Harmonia. Those recordings caught the ear of like-minded British experimentalist and former Roxy Music member Brian Eno, who would join both Harmonia and Cluster for a series of ambient recordings towards the end of the decade that are still hailed as ahead of their time.

Rodelius would branch off into solo work as well, issuing a prolific string of ambient keyboard works that paved the way to new age music in the ’80s and filled his time during extended breaks in activity for Cluster. Though the duo would reunite in 1989 for Apropos Cluster and have another stretch of productivity (the group went on another decade-long hiatus in 1997), Rodelius stayed busy with more solo recordings and a flood of collaborations that included work with pianist Morgan Fisher, musician Onnen Bock (who was part of the side project Qluster), electro-pop artist Stefan Schneider and a reunion with Conrad Schnitzler.

Cluster had already announced it’s final dissolution in 2010 after a last round of live festival performances with Moebius passing away from cancer five years later. The 82-year-old Rodelius continues to play live regularly in Europe, but it bringing a rare tour of the U.S. to San Francisco this week, sharing the stage with another collaborator, American keyboardist Tim Story for this show at the Chapel Wednesday night. Onetime SF ambient electronic group Xambuca opens the show.

Hans-Joachim Roedelius with Tim Story
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m. $18-$20
The Chapel 

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