I find it hard to get my head around the fact that a man older than my father made this record. Born in Switzerland in 1944, Dieter Moebius was an art student in Berlin and Brussels where, whilst moonlighting as a cook in 1969, he formed Kluster with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler.
When, after three albums, Schnitzler buggered off to pursue solo projects, the remaining pair modified the name to Cluster (musicians, eh?), began an ongoing collaboration with Michael Rother of Neu!, formed Harmonia, recorded some seriously groundbreaking electronica and Krautrock (around the time Kraftwerk were about to go global with ‘Autobahn’) and participated in some legendary ambient sessions with Brian Eno. Phew.
Kram (meaning -stuff’ or -odds and ends’), Moebius’ fourth solo effort, is an uneasy ride from the off. The aptly-named ‘Start’ begins with some synths spluttering into life and you could be forgiven for expecting some pleasantly trippy ambient offerings in the post. But that’s as far as it goes. Dieter is about to flush your head down a delectably nightmarish electro-toilet of clunks, thumps, whirrs, chatterings and clatters.
Three minutes in and it’s as if the amphibians from Paul McCartney’s famous 1980s Frog Chorus decided to spend the intervening downtime injecting liquefied MDMA into their eyeballs at a bunch of ill-advised Teutonic basement parties and have returned with a track they cobbled together one night at a questionable mate’s house. The frogs are in there but the lights are not on and they’ve eaten the bulbs..
Next up, ‘Komit’ has that wonderfully distinctive Kraftwerk taste to it as it chugs forward like an analogue train en route to a destination many miles south, deep in the Bavarian forests. The flatulent squelch of ‘Womit’ proves a spectacular beauty on headphones, all reverberating notes and cacophonies of chirruping aliens in the background, while tracks like ‘Steigert’, ‘Lauert’ and ‘Rennit’ bring Aphex Twin at his most uneasy to mind, or the generally-uneasy-anyway Autechre.
This album is full of deeply textured pieces with more going on than an entire chart top 20 in HMV. It is bold, inventive electronica – a work more of totality than of individual tracks – that often threatens to break out the abstruse melodies into fully-formed sonic birds and let them soar away.
Instead, Moebius’ brief seems to be the creation of an intense soup, full of rich ingredients, but one that makes you work to taste them all, to let yourself go, to adjust your palate, or let it be adjusted, accordingly. The timelessness of the sounds means this could have been made 30 years ago by the same man, or even 30 years in the future, testing, jarring and enthralling whilst leaving any keenly-listening canines with a hefty dose of the heebie-jeebies.
As the album (it could nearly be classed as an electronic symphony given the progression, drive, discipline and atmosphere) draws to a close we get the penultimate ‘Schwitzt’, whose ominous 8-bit horror vibe could comfortably soundtrack a film where some moody teenager must play a Nintendo Gameboy Advance in hell, ad infinitum, as the Dark Lord watches over his hunched shoulder, mocking his shortcomings when faced with Big Boss number five in Mega Man.
Concluding with ‘Markt’, Moebius does not offer any easy answers as to what you have just heard. Wicked woodland animals, soul singers, zombified percussionists and a smorgasbord of odd sounds and repetitive bangings clamber for your attention, leaving one on edge, unsure of what exactly has just happened and urging you to hit play and repeat the journey again immediately.