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Cluster was a German music duo comprising Hans Joachim-Roedilius and Dieter Moebius. The group formed in 1971, shortly after the disbanding of Kluster: a trio that included Conrad Schnitzler, whom Moebius was acquainted with at the Dusseldorf Fine Arts Academy. Cluster’s debut album, a self-titled release from 1971, is a more electronic approach from the two’s previous efforts, highlighted by the progressive production of Konrad Plank. Reverberation, mixing, and various tape effects serve to create a foreboding mechanical atmosphere reminiscent of Stockhausen’s musique concrete. Yet the two deny the influence of any particular musicians (Krautrock or otherwise) during this time, and the result of these electronic tone poems is strikingly original. The first track is a study on synthetic repetition that avoids any sense of functional tonality. Pulsating drones of myriad timbres are mixed in and out, creating a disorienting and chaotic experience for the listener. Delayed guitar tones are drenched in reverb and absorbed into the electronic soundscape; the sound is processed to the extent that its human qualities are inscrutable. Towards the end, the piece builds in intensity as the synth lines ascend to extreme registers, and a pulsating bass line emerges that approaches the sound of modern techno. The second and third tracks tread the same path as the opening, espousing an insistent rhythmic repetition and free atonality. The third track, the longest in the series, features the greatest variety of sounds, but lacks a compelling presentation in its improvisatory structure. Nonetheless, several moments bear a resonance, especially when a sweeping synth line or bass pulse is suddenly brought into high relief. The complexity of the textures and a sense of cyclic momentum are perhaps the album’s greatest innovations.
Cluster II, released a year after their eponymous debut, comprises six shorter tracks that feature a similar instrumentation and sound. The tracks are…


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