By 1983, Dieter Moebius was already a legend in Krautrock circles. His first appearance on vinyl was in 1970, as a member of Kluster (later Cluster). In the intervening 13 years he had recorded with the elite of the European avant-garde, including Joachim Roedelius, Conny Plank, Mani Neumeier, and Brian Eno. The only thing remaining was to release a solo album, which he did with Tonspuren.
Tonspuren translates from German to English as “soundtrack.” It is the perfect title for this ten song collection, as each piece really does tell its own story. Take the opening track, “Contramino,” for example. The song features an upbeat melody interspersed with peculiar blips and bleeps that seem to suggest that something is not quite right. Underneath it is an insistent drumbeat strangely reminiscent of the one Phil Collins used for “In The Air Tonight.”
The vaguely sinister “Hasenheide” follows, and confirms that Tonspuren will not be an easy-listening walk through the electronic park. Things get truly dark a couple of cuts later with “Transport,” and “Etwas." “Transport” really does suggest an uncomfortable late-night excursion, while “Etwas” puts Moebius’ ultramodern musical vision front and center.
If anything, the remaining five songs are even stronger. “Nervos,” is a particular favorite, exactly corresponding to a nervous, paranoid feeling, as do “B 36,” and “Sinister.” The closing track, “Immerhin,” which roughly translates as “after everything else,” is ideal. The song neatly encapsulates the album, summing it up and closing the door on this fascinating bit of German experimentalism.
Tonspuren is minimalism taken almost as far as it can go. Certainly at the time, nobody in the rock world was doing anything this stripped down. It is as if all of the lush and adventurous work Moebius had done over the years needed a little pruning for once. What he came up with on his own is a fascinating record, one that sounds as outside of time today as it did back in 1983.
Tonspuren is a minor jewel that somehow slipped through the cracks of the early Eighties. It is one that is well worth hearing for anyone with an interest in music that exists outside of the ordinary.