I’m deep inside the plugin mines right now, working on the next Valhalla DSP release. So here’s a quick tribute to one of the bands that got me interested in this whole electronic music thing in the first place: Harmonia.
Harmonia was a “supergroup” of sorts, consisting of Michael Rother (1/2 of NEU!), and Hans-Joachim Rödelius and Dieter Moebius (2/2 of Cluster). In 1973, Rother, Roedelius and Moebius moved to the rural village of Forst, West Germany, where they built the coolest studio I have ever seen in some ancient farmhouse or barn or something. Seriously, every picture I have ever seen of this place makes me want to move out to the country and buy up some old test equipment:
Here’s another shot of Micheal Rother’s setup:
Harmonia’s first album, titled Musik von Harmonia, was released in 1974, and is simply essential. The tracks consisted of the same tentative, snaky interlocking parts that characterized Cluster’s music of the time, with Rother contributing beautiful sustained fuzz tones:
In 1975, Harmonia released Deluxe. This album drew more heavily upon the “motorik”* beat that characterized NEU!, and the melodies were a bit more “soaring.” This album gets heavy rotation while I am coding new algorithms:
Harmonia went on hiatus after Deluxe, but had a brief reunion in Forst in September 1976, where they were joined by Brian Eno. The resulting tracks were released in 1997, on Tracks and Traces. Again, the photos from the studio are incredible:
The music is very close to the first collaboration between Cluster and Eno. Good stuff:
Anyway, go get these recordings. There is a live album from 2007 that is pretty great as well, but the first two studio recordings are essential.
* The rock critic term for the highly repetitive “buh-buh-BUH-buh-buh-buh-BUH-buh” beat that was used by NEU! in their faster songs, as well as by Kraftwerk and other Krautrock-influenced bands. Personally, I think it should be called a “Moe Tucker” beat, as she made heavy use of it during her tenure in the Velvet Underground.
An other important contributor to Harmonia, Cluster, NEU! etc. was producer (extraordinaire!) Conny Plank, who died much to early.
I need to learn more about Conny Plank’s work. His work on the early Kraftwerk albums is also notable.
Great blog man got here reseaching the Ursa Major… and another time via eos from AD… keep up the good work.. and about Harmonia… amazing music …. sounds timeless… i mean it will always be music from the future.. a luminous great one… hope to see it one day like this guys recorded it from their imagination… Thanks for the youtube link!
Wow, thanks for this post. I’m a fan of Krautrock, but somehow overlooked this group. I’m amazed that such a gem flew under my radar for so long.
From interviews with Cluster, their studio was indeed some old farm buildings with electricity, but no insulation or heating, so it got very cold! But it must have been very inspiring as what they produced is absolutely stellar