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Album Review

After issuing his classic third album, Katzenmusik, the first real anthemic electronic trance record and the culmination of everything Rother had worked on with Flammende Herzen and Sterntaler, a change in direction was necessary. First was the separation from his production alliance with Conny Plank and drummer Jaki Leibzeit. For the first time, Rother delved deeper into the keyboards than he did his guitars, and there has been no turning back since. While simple rhythmic structures still dominate the album, they are muted and deeper in tone. It's as if the bass drum was put under a pillow and programmed; the guitars slip into the background as atmospheric color and the keyboards themselves multiply and become not only the primary textural elements, but the primary chromatic and timbral ones as well. This is, by and large, extremely meditative music; it exists in the dark tones of black and gray and feels more opaque in its constructions. Gone are the soaring melodies of Katzenmusik that threatened to come right through the speakers and bust open the listener's heart with their optimism and emotion. They are replaced with fragments, smaller ideas that echo and turn in on them as they develop. When the guitars do present them, they stay far from the Motorik rock & roll of earlier recordings and become instead the pillars of a framework whose ambiguity lies solely in its lack of distinguishing one track from another. In other words, Fernwärme is a tapestry of instrumental songs whose theme is far greater than the sum of its parts, with the possible exception of "Erikonig," which offers glimpses of the Motorik sound and the twin guitar flanges, but even here, it's in a minor key, its effect is more subdued and reflective, even somber. Does this make it a bad record? Far from it. Fernwärme is a beautiful recording, a move away from convention and into invention, and one that marks a real transition in German rock music in particular. Welcome to the darkness.


Born: 02 September 1950 in Hamburg, Germany

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

Michael Rother was born in Germany in 1950. In the late '60s, he played for a group called Spirits of Sound and also Wolfgang Flür. The latter group would later become Kraftwerk; Rother also played with Kraftwerk in 1971. That same year he went on to the band NEU! He recorded three albums with them during his four-year tenure. He also worked with Harmonia (with whom he released two albums) starting in 1973, running concurrently with several of his years in NEU! In 1976, he recorded with Brian Eno....
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Fernwaerme, Michael Rother
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