The Bureau B label is rapidly becoming my favorite record label in the world. They continue to reissue some of the most provocative music ever made. Most of it comes from Germany, and is usually called Krautrock. The term is a bit of a misnomer, especially considering Zero Set, but it stands as the best shorthand available.
The self-titled Zero Set LP was originally released in 1982. While it features musicians from the Krautrock heyday of the 1970’s, it is far from the progressive extravaganzas the genre is known for. Zero Set is a record that sounds like a blueprint for the funky, percussive and proudly electronic jazz that Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis pursued to great effect in the 1980’s. It is a shame that nobody else ever heard it.
The record is a percussive extravaganza from a super-session of German experimental music pioneers. Dieter Moebius is best known for his work in Cluster; Mani Neumeier was the drumming, driving force of Guru Guru; and Conny Plank produced everyone from The Scorpions to Neu! to Kraftwerk. Zero Set comprised a trio of musicians who clearly were at the top of their game.
The heavy percussion of opening track “Speed Display” says it all. The best fusion of The Mahavishnu Orchestra only hinted at these possibilities. From there it is a short journey to “Pitch Control,” which anticipates the beat to a well-done electronic sound the song “Rockit” made so famous.
Most presciently of all is the final cut, “Search Zero.” This is a tune that prefigures everything Miles Davis made as his trademarked sound of the 1980’s. It is a sadly illuminating track. Marcus Miller always took credit for the idea of sampling Miles’ trumpet, but the whole thing is established here, five years prior.
Discovering the Kosmiche Musik roots of Miles Davis’ final era is an amazing thing. Zero Set is in no way, shape or form a jazz record though. This is the sound of pioneers in every way as adventurous as any, creating the music they wanted to.
Zero Set stands as a truly great record. Thank you Bureau B for putting it back out there for the world to hear.