Qluster is the current incarnation of one of the longest-running acts on the planet, continually vibrant and productive from 1971 onward. In this possibly final form, the band once known as Cluster has mellowed some of the rough edges and grown subtly complex, losing none of that original alien magic they’ve conjured for 45 years running.
Swapping a C for a Q seems relatively minor, but the twist it signifies has been significant. Since 2011, the band has been incredibly prolific, dropping more than one album per year. The latest, Echtzeit, is the most vibrant yet.
Cluster were one of the founding fathers of the German musical movement that produced krautrock, kosmiche, and a whole host of experimental genres. Berlin in the 1970s was a supernova of new sounds, with innovators like Can, Faust, Tangerine Dream, and Popol Vuh creating music the likes of which had never even been imagined before. Rock music was never the same, while modern electronic music was essentially birthed. The music was cinematic and otherworldly, and most of it still sounds futuristic today.
While most of the big names died off over the years, their members scattering through the worlds of prog and jazz, the duo of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius quietly kept Cluster alive and thriving. Things changed in 2010 when Roedelius brought sound installation artist Onnen Bock on board to replace Moebius, and changed the name to Qluster. While the lineup was 50% different, the music remained 100% in line with the prior decades’ worth of exotic, timeless psychedelia.
Despite knowing how prolific the new duo has been, I was still surprised to learn that they’d already dropped an album this year, in early March. After one listen I was awestruck. After a half dozen, I’m convinced that Echtzeit is best release from this incarnation of the band yet.
Twinkling pianos, analog synthesizer swells, and a playfully light percussion touch dance across the entire spectrum of color through the album’s ten compact tracks. It’s cohesive enough to let drift without note when songs end and begin, perfect for daydreams, studying, or elevating the morning commute.