German electronic music pioneer Hans-Joachim Roedelius has been nothing if not prolific over the course of his 40 year career. His first recorded appearance was with Kluster on their 1970 debut Klopfzeichen. The trio’s early work defined German avant-garde at the time. Roedelius’ then became involved with Harmonia, who proved to be a cornerstone of the Krautrock movement. Their later collaborations with Brian Eno (Harmonia '76) added a third dimension, becoming massively influential on the burgeoning ambient genre.
Rodelius’ solo career began in 1978 with Durch Die Wüste. The ambient textures he had been exploring dominated this recording. In 1981, Roedelius was already up to his seventh solo album, Wenn Der Südwind Weht (When The South Wind Is Blowing). This productive three year period saw some very creative efforts, especially the Selbstportrait series, but Südwind was clearly intended as something of a Wüste – Volume II.
From the cover art, to the intricate solo improvisations, Südwind travels a remarkably similar terrain to Roedelius’ first solo album. The style and sounds of this disc have proven to be remarkably fertile territory, and have actually been present throughout his career.
The title track, “Wenn Der Südwind Weht,” opens the record up with a wide vista of possibilities. There is a gentle, and subtly repetitive quality to the minimal keyboard figures he plays, and the accent remains bright. The effect is similar to that of a shimmering sun reflected from placid ripples on a lazy stream.
This “sunny” approach is present on a number of tracks, including “Vellchenwurzein,” “Sonnengerflecht,” and “Goldregen.” I detect a nod to fellow travelers Krafterwerk with “Mein Freund Farouk.” While I have no idea who Hans-Joachim’s friend Farouk is, this song bears more than a passing resemblance to “Morgenspaziergang,” (Morning Walk) from Kraftwerk’s Autobahn LP.
Running counter to all of the evocations of vivid German landscapes is “Saumpfad.” This is a very dark, and spacy piece, which is given ample room to fully express itself at eight and a half minutes. The song eventually finds resolution in a distant drone, and is an excellent reminder of the deeply experimental origins of the composer.
The album concludes with “Felix Austria,” which almost sounds as if it were emanating from a church cathedral. Leave it to Hans-Joachim Roedelius to confound all expectations again. Wenn Der Südwind Weht has just been reissued by Bureau B, after being out of print for several years. It is definitely a highlight of his long and storied career.