Harmonia & Eno Classic Reissued

 

1976 album Tracks and Traces due Oct. 6
from Gronland/High Wire

 

By Blurt Staff

 

Great news for
Krautrock fans. We’ll let you get the gist by reading the press release, below.
And then get set for the massive – we do mean ginormous – Michael Rother interview that will be running soon on
the BLURT site. You have been warned.

 

Oh yeah, have
an MP3 on us:

 

In the late
summer of 1976 the musicians of Harmonia sensed an opportunity. The band had
made two albums up to then, Musik von Harmonia (1974), and Deluxe (1975). Both works are now considered classics of krautrock and electronic
music; nonetheless, afterwards the creative core went its separate ways. All
three musicians were tireless and set to work on solo projects. Michael Rother
would later release Flammende Herzen, Hans-Joachim Roedelius Durch
die Wu
̈ste and Dieter Moebius Lilienthal. But then Brian Eno
waltzed onto the scene. He had long been aware of Harmonia, and had even
spontaneously joined in on a session with the band at a concert in the Fabrik
in Hamburg in
1974. The musicians were not shy about expressing their interest in further
collaboration and exchanged numbers. Two years later Eno called the members of
Harmonia and asked, “Is now a good time?” The answer, “Well, not
exactly – we kind of broke up – but sure, as good a time as any.”

At that time
Eno was on his way to Montreux to work with David Bowie on the album Low.
A man well-traveled in the beau monde of rock music, he entered the studio in
the rural hamlet of Forst in Germany’s
Weserbergland region with no pretenses. To quote Rother, “Eno didn’t come
across like an aloof pop star at all; on the contrary, he was very pleasant and
inquisitive. We worked as equal partners and were a collective that simply
wanted to make music, with no thoughts of commercial success and without the
pressure of having to record an album. To me those are the best working
conditions you can have.”

“Eno brought a great intellect, boundless pleasure in making music and a
font of experience in the realm of popular music, and that clearly opened a
door that was already closed,” adds Roedelius. Despite this, the general
public heard nothing from these recordings for a long time; in part because
they were not made for commercial purposes, but also because Eno’s original
tapes were long considered lost. Luckily, Roedelius and Rother had both made
copies of the four-track tapes.

Out of the blue in 1997
Harmonia released the album Tracks & Traces, which included clips
from the legendary 1976 recording sessions. Roedelius probed the material in
his possession and had it remixed using an elaborate technical process. “I
did nothing more than technically remaster the original material (one of the
three four-track tapes that we had recorded) with Austrian sound engineers and
enhance it so it would be digestible for other listeners besides
ourselves,” recalls Roedelius.

Rother explains more precisely, “Due to discord within the band, Achim put
the music together on his own. The new tracks recorded in 1997 are therefore an
expression of his personality in their atmospheric emphasis. Möbi and I weren’t
happy that Achim went it alone, but we had to admit that he had done a hell of
a job. All the same, we came to a consensus on the title and the artwork, so
Möbi and I were in a sense involved (laughing). But you really can’t say a bad
word about the music, it’s wonderful.” One can do nothing but agree with
that assessment. In “Vamos Compañeros” a brazen groove hisses to the
fore in the form of a looped steam engine sound. The idyllic detour provided in
“By the Riverside” abruptly gives way to an abstract experimental
phase with a gloomy undertone. A cautionary finger is raised admonishing,
“Don’t get lost on Lüneburg Heath.” After a “Weird
Dream” the mood again brightens and the listener is treated to warmer,
pop-like harmonies and the slide guitar familiar from Eno’s later works,
although, in this case, it is Rother playing it. But, of course, it does not
end there.

Rother himself had a copy
he had had stashed away in his studio since 1976 as well. One day he decided to
digitize the 27 fragments contained on it. Although the material could have
filled an entire album, they agreed to add three of the songs to the reissue of
the 1997 album. “Initially I asked myself what made sense musically; which
of the many tracks I particularly liked and which reflected the broad musical
scope of our collaboration with Brian Eno the best. The next step was about how
best to integrate the selected tracks into the existing album. Instead of the
normal practice of tacking them on to the end of the album as bonus tracks, I
proposed changing the structure of the album and the order of the tracks.
Luckily everyone involved agreed on that.” The album now builds up gradually
with the intro “Welcome” and the second track “Atmosphere”
before proceeding to “Vamos Compañeros”, from whence it gains the
trusted momentum of the original release. It is rounded out with
“Aubade”, a track that reinforces the impression of a reconciliatory
conclusion.

As they say, good things
take time. And now, 33 years after these recordings were created, we finally
have an all-around satisfying version of a long believed lost treasure of the
krautrock era. In all likelihood this project signals the end of the Harmonia
era. Although the band reformed two years ago and performed some highly
acclaimed concerts in Berlin, Great Britain, the USA and Australia in the wake
of the release of the celebrated concert recording Live 1974, Rother and
Roedelius both jointly declared that there would be no continuation of the live
performances – even if doing so would be lucrative for them in many ways. But
the 1970s German avant-garde never let itself be a slave to commercial
interests. Its credo remains as it was then: Good music is what is born of the
unadulterated soul of the artist, not something fabricated with strategies and
intellectual games, whatever their nature. And, as one can tell from Harmonia
& Eno 1976 – Tracks and Traces, quality does not lose its luster in
such conditions – not even with the passing of decades.

 

Tracklisting:

 

01 Welcome
02 Atmosphere
03 Vamos Companeros
04 By the Riverside
05 Luneberg Heath
06 Sometimes in Autumn
07 Weird Dream
08 Autumn
09 Les Demoiselles
10 When Shade Was Born
11 Trace
12 Aubade

 

 

 

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