Geschenk des Augenblicks (Bureau B)
by Phil Freeman
Hans-Joachim Roedelius was one of the most important musicians on the early 1970s German electronic scene. With Conrad Schnitzler and Dieter Moebius, he formed the trio Kluster; when Schnitzler departed for a solo career, Roedelius and Moebius changed the K to a C and released several beautiful, genre-defining albums; they also collaborated with Neu!‘s Michael Rother as Harmonia, and recorded with Brian Eno (as Cluster and Eno) toward the decade’s end. He’s released at least a shelf’s worth of solo recordings, too, most of which are electronic in nature (even if they’re not strictly synth-based) and ambient in feel. This is not one of them.
Geschenk des Augenblicks (which translates to “gift of the moment,” more or less) is an album built around acoustic guitar, piano, and strings. There are some electronic sounds in the background, but the primary instrumental voices are all organic. Its melodies are slow and stately, loop-like in structure, instruments slowly moving around each other, occasionally moving in a more uptempo direction, but never for long. “Kleine Blume irgendwo (Little Flower somewhere)” is primarily a happy piano melody, with what sounds like either an accordion or a melodica coming in toward the end to play a melancholy, contrasting line. “Ohn’ Unterlass (Continuously)” is arranged for piano, synths and computer-altered voices (remember, this was originally recorded in 1984, on analog equipment) and sounds like a cross between Philip Glass and Magma.
The 11 tracks on Geschenk are mostly short, ranging between two and five minutes; the longest, “Zu Füßen der Berge am Ufer des Sees (At the foot of the mountain by the lakeside),” runs only 6:45. They have the feel of chamber music pieces rather than electronic compositions or pop instrumentals, but there’s also something unfinished about a lot of them. They don’t have enough time to truly develop into anything beyond a string of sketches. Still, it’s very beautiful music, gracefully shimmering along for just over 45 minutes and sounding less ’80s than any album from that decade I’ve ever heard. As something of a departure for Roedelius, it’s one of the most important records in his solo discography, and this reissue is more than welcome.