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"Qua"

Cluster – Qua
02 March 2010, 10:00 Written by Matt Poacher
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John Updike once said that the reason for his prolific nature was that he was still working at the problem of the 'mystery of being me.' Faced with fact of Dieter Moebius (who is 66) and Hans-Joachim Roedelius (who is 75) - two ageing musicians who are still working, prolifically, hunched over synthesisers and oscillators ”“ one wonders if the same conditions apply. What’s behind this investigative drive? Habit? Or is this a now near-perpetual exploration of the mystery of the self? The more I listen to Qua the more it reveals itself to be less about any form of affect-driven odyssey of discovery, and more about a continuing modernist fascination (obsession?) with the infinite sonic possibilities of machines, and our relationship with machines. In reality Qua is set of almost totally affectless miniatures, a series of small vignettes that seem to have no higher purpose than that of documenting a processural relationship. Qua stands and falls on the very fact of whether or not this documenting process is an engaging and interesting enough one. And in truth, if this weren’t such a seminal duo, I wonder if we’d pay much attention at all. Placed in the context of what Cluster (and Kluster before that) were a part of, and what they set in process, this feels a little incidental. The drift from those early spooked music concrete constructions to the later bucolic ‘70s albums such as Zuckerzeit and Sowiesoso that had a hand in the ‘creation’ of ambient music, is a well documented one ”“ and from this distance it might be crass to impose a linear narrative, but there does appear to have been a purpose, a definite arc, even something as banal as a simple inward retreat. And it’s this weight of the past that makes listening to Qua such a strangely unsatisfying experience, because here there is no true sense of direction beyond the purely sonic. Which would of course be fine if it were not, as a collection, so easy to let slip by.The odd thing is that the intimations of potential are all there ”“ with nods to their own expansive past (both as a duo and in their solo work and collaborations ”“ lest we forget Harmonia and Eno) to other gathered electronic tropes: the production (by Tim Story) is bright and sharp, there are synth-led ‘80s soundtracks on ‘Na Ernl’, ‘Formalt’s’ Burial-like vamps, ‘Stenthin’ almost Wobble-esque dub deeps, the propulsive warble of ‘Malturi Sa’, the more Geir Janssen than Geir Janssen glacial sweep of ‘Gissander’ and at times an overall queasiness that feels like Cluster refracted backwards through an Aphex Twin distorting mirror. And yet, here I am, a month into living with it and I’m no nearer to recommending it to anyone. The experience has been so overwhelmingly neutral that I'm a little confounded. The neutrality might be an aesthetic in itself, but not one I'd particularly care to pursue. Interesting then, but not essential.

Buy the album on Amazon |[itunes link="http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/flutful/id318328088?uo=4" title="Cluster-Qua_(Album)" text="iTunes"] | Rhythm Online

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