Cluster “Cluster ’71”

Posted 02 Oct 2011 in 70s, Experimental, Jim McCabe

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (# 512 in the Series) is Cluster, Cluster ’71.

This will be the most vague and confusing review that I have written for Cool Album of the Day. It may be the most vague and confusing review ever written on this site. I am completely OK with that. Why? Cluster ’71 is completely different to me every time I listen to it. It’s loud. It’s serene. It’s scary. It makes perfect sense. It’s background noise. It’s the greatest album ever made. One thing is certain, though. It will probably drive people away as it draws me closer.

Cluster is a German avant garde collective that was formed in Berlin in 1970. With the exception of a fourteen year break from 1981 to 1994, the band has been recording to the present. Dieter Moebius, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Connie Plank, etc. have been lumped in with Krautrock, but that is too limiting of a classification. Space rock? Prog? I don’t know, but it’s exhilarating from the first moment to the forty fifth minute.

How do you identify and label your favorite music? By song titles? Cluster ’71 doesn’t have any. The songs (?) are named after their lengths. By the lyrics? Cluster ’71 doesn’t have any. It is a journey through industrial space without a narrator. By the beat? Other than a few moments on the second piece, there aren’t any. This album is a hodge podge of synthesized effects. By short tunes? Cluster ’71 has three movements. Their lengths, and titles, are: “15:33,” “7:38,” and “21:17.” How do you refer it to a potential listener?

Nearly all of my musical listening life has been worshipping at the altar of the holy power chord. Bands like UFO, Mott the Hoople, the Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers, Ramones, Clash, Jason and the Scorchers, Wildhearts, et. al. join Bowie, the Stones, Cure, etc. at the center of my musical universe. At the age of 50 I thought “There must be something else.” I began exploring NEU!, La Dusseldorf, Can, Popol Vuh, Harmonia, and Kraftwerk. Even though Cluster is lumped in with these bands, they are so different.

Cluster ’71 is filled with noises that you might hear in an art house horror movie soundtrack. One thing is certain, though. This music is scarier and noisier than the movie. There’s an air compressor noise here, an industrial grease gun firing there, and ambient noises everywhere.

If you are as confused by reading this as I am by writing it you have to do one thing. Find Cluster ’71 and turn the volume up. Be brave my fellow explorer, be brave.

— Jim McCabe

Track listing

  1. [untitled] – 15:33
  2. [untitled] – 7:38
  3. [untitled] – 21:17


  • Hans-Joachim Roedelius – organ, electronically treated cello, audio-generator, amplifier
  • Dieter Moebius – organ, Hawaiian guitar, audio-generator, amplifier, helias
  • Conrad Plank – electronics, effects, producer


Posted by Larry Carta

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