By the time Cluster’s sixth album Curiosum was released in 1981, much of the music world had caught up to them. Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius had been recording together since 1970, beginning with Conrad Schnitzler’s seriously avant-garde Kluster. After three records, they split off and recorded together as a duo under the rubric of Cluster.
Along the way, they managed to exert quite an influence, most notably on Mr. Brian Eno. There were three collaborations incorporating Cluster and Eno released in the mid-1970’s. They were to have a profound impact on later generations of musicians. Harmonia (1976), Cluster & Eno (1977), and After The Heat (1978) contain the DNA of the entire “ambient” genre that was to fully flower in the coming years.
What had always set these two pioneering Kraut-rockers apart was their embrace of all things experimental. Curiosum is no exception. Opening up with the strangely childlike bells of “Oh Odessa,” the seven tracks comprising this record show a continued growth in their musicianship.
“Proantipro,” and “Tristan in der Bar” are the most rhythmic tracks the duo had yet recorded. “Proantipro” in particular reflects a newer approach, with a dirge-like stomp closer to the tribal sounds Eno and David Byrne were working with on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.
The synths Cluster were using at the time sound pretty dated today, but I remember this as being the epitome of cutting-edge in 1981. “Seltsame Gegend,” and “Charlic” both represent a kind of look to the future, while acknowledging their past sounds and visions.
Fans of the classic ambience of Cluster & Eno will not be disappointed with Curiosum either. The two tracks that are my personal favorites hearken back to those soothing tones, “Helle Melange,” and “Ufer.”
The eight-minute miniature ambient suite “Ufer” is outstanding. This is the sound of two men who had explored this type of music long enough to know what works, and what does not. It is a reminder of just how much Cluster had already contributed to the underground musical vocabulary. Listening to “Ufer” today, some 28 years after it’s initial release is a great experience, as it remains as poetic now as it was back then.
The same can be said for all of Curiosum. For many groups, album number six is far removed from their initial inspiration. For Cluster though, this is just another step in the journey.
This is a well-titled disc, because Curiosum should appeal to anyone curious about a wide variety of music. Ambient, electronic, world, early Eighties, chill-out, and Krautrock, are just a few areas Curiosum touches on. It is nice to see such an obscure gem back in print.