CLUSTER!!!!

I'd heard a few months ago that Cluster was to tour the United States this summer and I just sort of filed it away figuring I'd hear more about it.

It sounded sort of unlikely, I guess, even though the news was from Russ Curry at Curious Music. Russ is the guy behind getting much of Cluster's catalog released in the US recently. Still, Cluster's Summer 1996 US Tour, first ever appearances in the US left me somewhat skeptical.

Even when Russ posted tour dates I was somewhat ambivalent, it seemed for off, weeks or a month or more in the future and I tend to schedule things on a daily or weekly basis.

This all set me up for being genuinely surprised when I was tuned into KPFA on a Tuesday night in late June and heard an interview in mid progress. When I heard the interviewees introduced at a break I nearly fell off my chair. Cluster was a few miles away in a studio, talking about their music and due to play live in San Francisco a few nights later. It all started to sink in!

I'd been turned onto Cluster's music about 20 years ago, via a friend and WXPN in Philadelphia. At the time we were fanatical about anything we could find on old records on the german Ohr or Brain record labels, hunting used bins and paying collectors prices, often paying more than new records at the time for out of print pressings bands we'd barely or never heard of. Cluster was the cream of the crop - Conny Plank was pracically a member of the band and he was also the recording guru of so much else on the german scene. I recall buying reissues of the first two Kluster albums around 1979; Cluster as a trio with Conrad Schnitzler before he split to do his atonal non-tempered Con masterpiece. It was around 1980 I wandered into a record store where Jeff Grienke and Rob Angus worked (both now have numerous electronic music releases) and found them playing a copy of Cluster & Eno's "After the Heat" and I was instantly mesmerized... and when someone else walked up to the counter and asked what it was and bought a copy I realized what a fantastically accessible yet mysterious work that is.

Over the years "After the Heat" has become one of my desert island favorites. A release that evokes so much in me. It's seems to me to have a middle eastern flavor and to invoke a sense of traveling, of passage, and shifting moods. It's one of the few albums where I've really noticed a sense of flow to the lp track arrangements too, it seemed to me to have a linear quality where each track grew on the last. And Eno's vocals on Broken Head shift into such a dark and murky space, chewed up by the machinery...

So, some 15 or 20 years after my introduction to Cluster's music I felt like a kid again as I hung on the phone line to KPFA trying to win free tickets to a concert by Cluster that Friday. I wasn't a winner. But I took the opportunity to pass my number along to Russ and Cluster with an interview request. Hoping I could offer a special feature to the EnoWeb audience covering Cluster's tour and their work with Eno and more.

I was still sort of stunned when I got a call the next morning and I made impromtu plans to meet with Russ and the band that night over dinner. A crazy day at work that I was already stressed over flew by and before I knew it I was getting into a van driven by Russ and headed off to one of my favorite Thai restaurants, Cha Am in San Francisco.

It was really wonderful meeting them. Roedelius carries himself like a monk or holy man, seems very at peace with himself, very gentle, compassionate. Moebius seemed a bit more unsettled, overflowing with the energy of a gleeful child at play and debating privately in german with Roedelius over some of his statements when I asked if Cluster had any message for their audience. The tape deck I used was an old cheap mini with built in mic and the digital camera pics are a bit washed out. And I'm so slow at transcribing that I'll probably do this in pieces so I can get at least some of it online while they're still doing the Summer '96 US tour. Expect some interview transcriptions soon.

See Russ's Curious Music and Cluster Information Service for more info on the tour, Cluster, etc. The tour is also featuring The Brain, a synth duo with members who've backed Nik Turner and Helios Creed and who are joined by Bond Bergland on guitar (Factrix and Saqqara Dogs) on this tour.

I'll also post a review of Cluster's San Francisco concert when I get a chance...

- Malcolm mal@emf.net