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Curiosum

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Album Review

Cluster's tenth album, not counting their collaborations with Brian Eno or Neu's Michael Rother, finds the duo of Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius in a somewhat peculiar place. Their landmark early electronic work was hugely influential on the English post-punk synthesizer bands of the late '70s. Curiosum, released in 1981, just as some of these bands were moving from arty cult status to mainstream stardom, sounds like Moebius and Roedelius had started taking cues from the groups they'd initially inspired. Gone are the side-long experiments of early Cluster albums like Zwei Osteri. In their place, Moebius and Roedelius craft seven surprisingly short discrete instrumental pieces; four are under five minutes, and none reach the ten-minute mark. Since it's impossible to work up a good hypnotic drone in so little time, the songs on Curiosum are more melodic than most of the duo's earlier work. The lilting, almost playful "Oh Odessa" sounds like it could have been on an early Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark album. Other tracks, particularly the fascinating "Charlic," which is based on a wheezy, wobbly rhythm track that sounds not unlike either certain types of Moroccan bagpipes or the bleating of an asthmatic goat, recall the less sonically aggressive moments of Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire. Only the relatively lengthy pieces at the end of each side recall Cluster's trademark space rock textures, with the lulling, almost subliminally quiet "Ufer" being the most typically Cluster-like track on the whole album. Curiosum isn't a misguided bid for pop stardom, the way that late-period Amon Düül II or Kraftwerk records often seemed to be. In fact, with its concise and melodic instrumentals, this would probably be an excellent introduction to synthesizer-based Krautrock for pop listeners put off by the idea of 20-minute one-chord drones. However, it's an atypical work, and it's not surprising that Cluster took a decade-long sabbatical after its release.

Biography

Formed: 1970 in Berlin, Germany

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The most important and consistently underrated space rock unit of the '70s, Cluster (originally Kluster) was formed by Dieter Moebius, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and Conrad Schnitzler as an improv group that used everything from synthesizers to alarm clocks and kitchen utensils in their performances. Continuing on as a duo, Moebius and Roedelius eventually recorded many landmark LPs — separately, as a duo, and with all manner of guest artists from Brian Eno to Conny Plank to Neu!'s Michael Rother...
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Curiosum, Cluster
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