Cluster: Sowiesoso LP
The fourth full-length album by legendary German electronic music duo Cluster, originally released on Sky Records in 1976. Sowiesoso follows on from their most highly-acclaimed album, Zuckerzeit (1974). Michael Rother's influence was clearly audible on the latter, Cluster already having recorded two albums with him under the name of Harmonia. 1976 saw the duo looking for new musical forms. More than any other Cluster album, Sowiesoso represents the utopian vision of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Mobius, its mellow transparency evoking the landscape of the Weser Uplands where the two musicians lived at the time. Sowiesoso is not the work of fanatic dreamers who have fled the metropolis, but the reward for their tenacious search for a new musical language. The LP's seven cuts were recorded in their own studio with modest equipment -- a four-track tape machine, two Revox A77 stereo tape-decks and a simple 8-channel mixer. Cluster were thus completely independent, able to work where and when they wanted, at their own pace. With no guest musicians, sound engineers or producers to accommodate, Cluster thrived on their new-found autonomous freedom. Sowiesoso captures them at the peak of their creative development, with the limited range of recording equipment enhancing the clarity of their vision, allowing them to concentrate on the music without drifting into narcissistic muso territory. Minimalist, yet neither formulaic nor automated, the album is a rhythmic tapestry of otherworldly electronic and acoustic elements -- relaxed, organic and gentle ambience. This could only be Cluster music; its harmonies reaffirm the quality of song, in spite of eluding song structure as such.