Hans-Joachim Roedelius - Biography
Hans-Joachim Roedelius is a pioneer of early electronic music and one of modern day electronica’s most influential precursors. His work as a founding member of legendary Krautrock groups Cluster and Harmonia alone places him as a peerless visionary and compelling innovator. The fact that Roedelius has released over three decades worth of stunningly unique solo music cements his status as one of electronic music’s most vital composers. His work’s influence can be traced from Kraftwerk to synth-pop and post-punk bands like New Order and on to techno and electronica’s most abstract strains.
Roedelius was born in Berlin, Germany on October 26, 1934. He went on to become one of the key figures of the 1960s Berlin art scene. In 1968 he co-founded, along with Conrad Schnitzler, the music commune Human Being as well as the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, a key hub of activity for underground arts in the city. He met Dieter Moebius at the Zodiak and in 1970 the trio founded Kluster. Schnitzler left the group after only one year and the duo of Roedelius and Moebius changed the name to Cluster.
Cluster’s importance is unquestionable. The band has its own story, but it’s with Moebius that Roedelius would develop his unique style. Evolving from free form electronic noise drone to the pulsing, minimal melodic ambient-rock of all-time classics like 1974’s Zuckerzeit and 1976’s Sowiesoso, Cluster’s music is some of the most important electronic music made in the 20th century. The duo would go on to work with Neu!’s Michael Rother, recording as a trio under the Harmonia moniker and making two classic records, 1974’s Musik von Harmonia and 1975’s Deluxe. Cluster also worked on two albums with ambient icon Brian Eno, Cluster & Eno (1977) and After The Heat (1978). The duo released amazing albums throughout the following two decades and continues to record and perform today.
Concurrent with all this activity, Roedelius released his first solo album in 1978, entitled, Durch Die Wüste. A mesmerizing blend of throbbing, fractured rock, nebulously serene drones and hypnotic, simple melodies, these six tracks perfectly lay out Roedelius’ aesthetic. Jardin Au Fou (1979) collects ten short pieces of shimmering electronic ambience, wistful melodies and reflective calm. This album seems to have locked in Roedelius’ melodic sensibilities, a trademark he would continue to explore throughout his career. 1979 also brought Selbstportrait, the first album in an ongoing series that many fans consider Roedelius’ best work. This first volume consists of eleven luminous pieces built from keyboards and piano. The music was recorded between Cluster sessions from 1973 to 1977. These tracks radiate warmth with spiraling, lush keyboard parts and glowing ambience. It’s some of the most engaging electronic music of its time.
Cluster went on hiatus in the early ‘80s and Roedelius dedicated himself to solo recording. He released the second and third volumes of the Selbstportrait series in 1980, with the magnificent Lustwandel and Wenn Der Sudwind Weht in ’81. A career high, Lustwandel finds Roedelius focusing on rhythmic elements as well as his trademark ambience. ’82 marked his last two records for his longtime label, Sky Records. Flieg Vogel Fliege and Offene Taren further explore the extended synthesizer studies Roedelius had perfected by this point.
On leaving Sky Records Roedelius signed with the Virgin sub-label, Venture. During the mid to late ‘80s his work took a decidedly new age path, but highlights still abound. This period produced 1984’s Geschenk Des Augenblicks (Gift Of The Moment), his best selling solo album.
After releasing a handful of albums with Venture, the label dropped Roedelius in 1989. He began to record for several small labels such as Prudence, Nova Era and Materiali Sonori, releasing ambient electronica and avant-techno flecked with elements of jazz on records like Variety Of Moods (1990), Der Ohrenspiegel (1991) and Cuando…Adonde (1992). Cluster reunited in 1990 and toured extensively.
The mid ‘90s brought some of the composer’s finest work with albums like Theatreworks, the Sinfonia series and Selbstportrait VI: The Diary Of The Unforgotten. While touring with Cluster, Roedelius continued to record into the turn of the century. He released an astonishing eight albums between 2000 and 2001. He continues to record with Moebius as Cluster and has started working with many younger musicians he has influenced.
Hans-Joachim Roedelius’ influence on the various genres of electronic music cannot be overstated. His fans range from David Bowie to Autechre, citing his vast discography as hugely influential on their own work. The strides he made using electronic sound in music during the early ‘70s remain some of the most important developments in modern music.