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Music Review: Roedelius – The Diary Of The Unforgotten (Selbsportrait VI)

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Hans-Joachium Roedelius may be more famous for his collaborations with Brian Eno in the mid-seventies than anything else. Along with fellow Krautrock pioneers Dieter Moebius (Cluster) and Michael Rother (Neu!) Roedelius formed Harmonia, who Eno once called “The world’s most important rock band.” After recording with Harmonia, Eno went directly into the studio with David Bowie. The resulting three albums titled Low, “Heroes”, and Lodger were landmark achievements, recognized as peaks in both men’s careers.

Even as the high profile exposure of his experimental sounds reached the masses through Bowie and Eno, Roedelius’ own work remained cloaked in obscurity. For all I know, this may have been the way he wanted it. After all, the ten tracks included on The Diary Of The Unforgotten were solo recordings done during the Harmonia period, from 1972 to 1978, but went unreleased until 1990. That long out of print collection has just been reissued, and contains some first-rate material.

The title Selbsportrait VI, places it squarely in the strictly solo series of “self-portraits” Roedelius began releasing in 1979. His home studio in Forst, Germany was where everything was recorded, and the idyllic location seems to inform most of the music. Opening up with “Remember Those Days,” the album gets off with a lo-fi electronic piece that sounds fresh, even today.

The lo-fi electronics are a feature throughout the album. “Frohgemut,” “Ausgewahlt,” and “Manono,” are particular examples. When utilized in the context of these minimalist compositions, the archetypal early synth-tones sound utterly charming.

The centerpiece of The Diary Of The Unforgotten is “Hommage a Forst.” At twenty-four minutes, this track is a multi-part work which was obviously inspired by the surroundings it was recorded in. “Hommage” begins and ends very quietly, in fact almost imperceptibly in both cases. But in between, Roedelius allows his inner anarchist to run rampant for a change. There are parts that hearken back to the industrial clashes of the original Kluster, and their playfully abrasive sounds.

“Weg” closes out the disc with a brief, nearly tossed-off feeling. It is as if the deep soul-searching of “Hommage a Forst” had been a dream, and we are back in the comfortable womb of home and hearth, no matter how oddly futuristic that place might be.

As an avowed Krautrock fan, I whole-heartedly recommend anything by Roedelius, as he is a seminal figure in the genre. But The Diary Of The Unforgotten is much more than just a document of some home recordings the man made years ago. This is a fascinating album of minimalist pieces that could easily stand next to the contemporary works of Philip Glass or Terry Riley. It is definitely a record worth checking into.

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