My eyebrows raised when I saw this one announced – live vintage Cluster? The very notion flusters the brain because their albums mostly sound like the result of using the studio as an instrument. Yet, here it is and it is not even unprecedented. Mind you, it was years before I realised the song ‘Live in der Fabrik’ from Cluster II actually was recorded live at a venue called Fabrik which is where the 1972 recording on here is from.
This recording is definitely a companion piece to Cluster II and sees them laying down some dense and deeply cosmic drones that must have been the most intense thing in a small club at loud volume. Within this twenty two minute performance, there is a lot to be found. At times the deep echoes call to mind the techniques of Jamaican dub and yet some of the noises sound like stoned factory machines, more like abstract industrial than new age ambience. Even as it becomes more blissful towards the end, it remains alien and unknowable. What on earth are they doing there? What have they got on stage with them? How are they doing this?
The second track/set is from 1977, the year they released “Cluster & Eno”, just a year after “Sowiesoso” and captures a very different Cluster, more meditative and considered, yet just as strange. The intensity is gone, replaced with a stripped down minimalism. The music is almost a pulse of sound throbbing through your cortex. Its a long way from the pastoral feel of “Sowiesoso” but I suspect Cluster are improvising at these shows and responding to their environment. In this case, the environment is probably a bare bricks and heating pipes concert room full of dope smoke and cross-legged youths – lucky bastards.
It is a testament to the potent power of the 70s German scene that they can still dig up gold like this from the tape archives and it is a testament to this music that I can still enjoy it just as much after the responsibilities of parental life have made me a person of much greater temperance than I was when I first discovered the music of Cluster! ENCORE!