For those of you not too well up on your German progressive rock (or “Krautrock” as it’s rather more affectionately known), Harmonia were a pretty big hit in the 1970s. Their music was incredibly innovative for its time, like an even more pretentious Pink Floyd, or if we’re being charitable Sigur Ros with flares and German accents. The release of these live tracks coincides with the reunion of the band. They will be performing for the first time since 1976 in November at the Haus der Weltkulturen no less. Their fans wait with bated breath.
The release of this material is quite a landmark. There have only been three offerings from the band up until now, the rather aptly named “Musik Von Harmonia” (1974), “Deluxe” (1975), and “Tracks and Traces” (1997). The latter was in fact recorded in 1976, featuring the legendary Brian Eno, but was not fully released for over twenty years. Eno has since described the Germans as “the world’s most important rock band”. Praise indeed.
This album is certainly not the best place to start for new fans, but diehards will no doubt lap it up. It could best be described as a grower, the band tending not to specialize in the three minute pop song. Opener “Schaumburg” is all synths, drum loops and echoing guitars. It sounds a bit like a more sedentary version of “Girls and Boys” by Blur, only it lasts ten minutes and doesn’t actually go anywhere. The same can be said of track two (“Veteranissimo”) but clocking in at a mammoth 17.25 minutes. Sadly their songs do tend to sound a bit samey and last for a ridiculously long time, a bit like dub but in a cold climate. If there’s one standout it must surely be track three “Arabesque”, principally for its sheer weirdness. A bit like if the Stone Roses’ “Don’t Stop” had been produced by Captain Beefheart - most odd but strangely compelling.
One can only assume that in the 1970s Harmonia’s music was bought by earnest young men in corduroy jackets, possibly pipe smokers, who spent the rest of their money on books; Proust and Nietzsche no doubt at the top of their reading list. Indeed, one presumes that their latest release will be bought by the same said intellectuals. On that basis this record gets quite a high score, otherwise Harmonia enthusiasts need only apply.
Harmonia [wikipedia page]