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Harmonia

September 11, 2008 by garry

Formed in 1973 by the collision of Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius of the German experimental duo Cluster with Michael Rother from the sperm-filled krautrock band Neu!, Harmonia released two albums on the Brain label in the mid 1970s that have since been widely discussed in drawing rooms worldwide. Peppering their sonic soup with organ, synthesizer, piano, percussion and, less obviously, guitar, they proceeded to produce electro-pop of a very sky-like order. Thank you.

Their first affair from 1974, titled Musik von Harmonia, ranges from nice, bouncy, upbeat tunes steeped in trance repetition to more overcast clouds that hover over a vast cathedral full of heavy, pulsing dreambience. (Please excuse the stupid new word I just invented.) A funny detergent bottle emblazoned with generic typesetting sits inside a screen-tinted starburst on the cover.

The second album from 1975, Deluxe (featuring Mani Neumeier of Guru Guru on drums), floats in a very similar artery--although it's even more poppy and rhythmic--and is just as worthy of your dollars, attention and maybe even saliva. It's chock-full of more perfect electronic-driven pop dream songs and pensive sound feelings—largely without vocals. The cover art sports the band name and album title written in maple syrup superimposed over a nice, sunset orange sky.

After batting two for two, Harmonia recorded a third album in 1976 with its biggest fan--and one of ambient music's pioneers--Brian Eno. Called Tracks and Traces, it's a collection of contemplative, brooding, synth-washed songs that promptly entered the Official Recording Tape Graveyard, where it remained for two whole decades until it was finally pressed for the first time ever in 1997. And that abstract art on the cover is a surefire winner.

Amazingly, after over three decades, new life was breathed into the Harmonia hot air baloon in 2007 when a hitherto unknown tour recording was rescued from the mists of time, held up high in the warm light of day, and released to wide acclaim. Entitled Live 1974, it's chock-full of the kind of cyclical dream grooves, corroded synthscapes and tranced-out delerium that is every bit as transporting as their first two albums. In fact, the response to Live 1974 was so good, the band has even reformed to play their first live shows since the '70s.

Timeframe: Post-Altamont.

Public Impact: Although Harmonia was only active for three short years in their original '70s incarnation, their recordings went on to influence a whole generation of ambient rockers.

Learn more about Harmonia at Discogs, Last.FM, MySpace


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