Saturday, December 25, 2010

Harmonia - "Dino"


This collection of music appreciations would be incomplete without something on the German bands from the '70s loosely grouped together under the label "krautrock." Rather than highlighting an obvious masterpiece, I feel like picking out a perfectly generic track to draw out a few things about why this retroactively reified genre rules so hard.

This is from the debut of Harmonia, which was two the dudes from Cluster and Michael Rother from Neu! (who was also an original member of Kraftwerk) cloistered in a studio making side project recordings that often exceed the considerable excellence of their primary bands. The track fades in and and out, and in fact these recording sessions sound like an extended summoning of a mood, rather than a conscious laying down of a "piece," much less of a song -- I suspect that each track on the album is culled from a much longer jam. The mood summoned captures, as well as anything in the krautrock corpus, a perfect balance of mechanical propulsion and pastoral beauty. The three musicians (jamming live and overdubbing, I imagine) tightly weave together simple synth and guitar parts so that none is ever quite in the lead -- the entire lattice of sound is at the forefront in way that I don't think is too farfetched to call baroque. Every phrase marches along, or enters and exits, cleanly and clinically, as though assembled on a cost-efficient music assembly line. The miracle of the thing, though, is that it does this without sacrificing warmth. Maybe that's not much more complicated than the musicians having a bunch of really sweet analog synths. The only thing that doesn't sound pre-programmed is Rother throwing in some short subtle guitar phrases that color in the spaces but pass up the chance to take the stage and solo.

At the root of the thing is the interlocking of drum machine in dead-simple 4/4 and bass in lightly syncopated 7/4. This groove make the track downright danceable if you're the sort of person who likes to dance to rock music. I'm not one of those people, but I'm in luck because this track -- along with the rest of the album -- can be heard as pure ambient music as easily as it can be heard as music to move to.

1 comment:

  1. Ain't nothing generic about this awesomeness. This is the music of morning commutes on Neptune.