Release Date: Oct 6, 2009
Record label: High Wire
Genre(s): Rock, Electronic, Krautrock
For the uninitiated, Harmonia were one of those legendary collaborations from the fertile period of Krautrock without which we'd have no Electro, Techno, or Post-Rock, as we know them. Comprised of Michael Rother (from Neu!), and Moebius & Roedelius (better known as Cluster), the trio were re-united by Eno on a break between two of his best records, Another Green World and Before and After Science. Any one branch of the family tree should prompt some intrigue, but taken together, you can see why this re-working of lost recordings (first released in 1997) was one of the most exciting discoveries for audiophiles, in recent years.
A few more relics excavated from the tomb of “lost” Krautrock classic Krautrock has become synonymous with a steady motorik pulse, but the German electronic-music vanguard of the 1970s was more diverse than that. Cluster, for instance, had more in common with Brian Eno than Kraftwerk—and, after Cluster became Harmonia, the band collaborated with Eno in an epic jam session that remains mostly mythical. The recordings weren’t released, and Eno’s masters were lost.
The sessions from which Tracks and Traces emerged represented Harmonia at perhaps the apex of its power, maximized to its full potential. Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, each of Cluster, were the two constants of the entire project. The Tracks and Traces productions were preceded by two albums with Neu!’s Michael Rother and no Brian Eno and followed by two albums of Brian Eno and no Michael Rother (the latter two were credited respectively to Cluster & Eno and, confoundingly, Eno-Moebius-Roedelius, but very much continue in the spirit of Harmonia).
Recorded in 1976 -- after Brian Eno had proclaimed them one of the best groups around -- but for whatever reason not released until 20 years later, Tracks & Traces is a fascinating release not merely for Eno's participation but for the hints of music that would become mainstream in the future. Indeed, opening cut "Vamos Companeros" has an intense guitar line from Rother that in its nervous, choppy way suggests everything from Wire to Bauhaus, not to mention Eno's own noted production clients, U2. Having already created two excellent albums, the core Harmonia trio was easily placed to whip up a third, with Eno the wild-card factor who turned out to be a perfect addition.
In 1976, while traveling to Montreaux for the recording of David Bowie’s Low, Brian Eno contacted German krautrock group Harmonia to propose a collaboration. The trio, having performed with Eno sitting in at a live show two years earlier, accepted the offer despite having recently disbanded to pursue solo careers. The result of their studio collaboration, released in 1997 as Tracks and Traces and now re-released on Gronland Records, is a soothing and compelling artifact of a critical moment in electronic-rock history.