[Review] Cluster II (1972)

Space music of a higher order, as Cluster embarks on six shorter excursions into the musical cosmos.

Kronomyth 5.0: It’s full of stars.

This is the most impressive album that Cluster has released yet. It was designed to fill deep spaces; set up your speakers at opposite ends of the room, turn off the lights and it’s like sitting in the middle of the cosmos. Or sitting next to a broken air conditioner. Electronic music is kind of funny that way.

Cluster II is the first album from Cluster to feature shorter pieces. In that sense, it sets the stage for the albums to come. Otherwise, it still has at least one foot firmly planted in the experimental space music of the past. You could hear these pieces as different swatches of space. Plas is a kind of cosmic Om where Dieter Moebius and Joachim Roedelius interlock seamlessly. Im Süden is more angular by design, a seesawing between Moebius and Roedelius that begins to introduce the toylike sounds that would appear more prominently on later works. Für die Katz’ features birdlike space sounds and may very well have been written with felines in mind.

The second side begins with the epic Live in der Fabrik, a piece designed to fill vast spaces. Here, as on much of the album, the distinction between machine and instrument is intentionally blurred. The alien electronic language of Cluster is about creating worlds, not sounds. Georgel is a nightmarish piece that prominently features the organ, while Nabitte includes bits of voice and piano twisted together into a dark epilogue.

Cluster II is one of the best albums of space music I’ve encountered. Now, maybe space music isn’t your cup of eterna tea, and that’s fine. I personally enjoy music that makes me think, even if what I’m thinking is “Am I really listening to music or just a couple of guys twisting the knobs on an oscilloscope?” The pop music format only scratches at the surface of music’s potentialities. Cluster II goes much deeper, revealing a nightsky of alien worlds waiting to be explored by the adventurous.

Original elpee version

A1. Plas (6:00)
A2. Im Süden (12:50)
A3. Für die Katz’ (3:00)
B1. Live in der Fabrik (14:50)
B2. Georgel (5:25)
B3. Nabitte (2:40)

All titles by Dieter Moebius, Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Plank.

The Players

Dieter Moebius (electric organ, guitars, effects & electronics), Joachim Roedelius (electronics). Produced and engineered by Cluster and Conrad Plank.

The Pictures

Cover by Cluster. Photo by E. Walford.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1972 in Germany (Brain, 1006) with gatefold cover.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in Japan (Brain Metronome, UXP-749-EB).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1980 in Germany (Brain Metronome, 0060.402).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1981 in Japan (Brain Metronome, 22S-29).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc on June 7, 1994 in France (Spalax).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in Russia (Lilith, LR124).
  6. Re-issued on 180g vinyl elpee + compact disc in 2007 in Europe (Lilith, LR335).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc on April 28, 2021 in Japan (Brain, UICY-79446).

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