This release is totally fascinating, absorbing and beautiful. Harmonia, whose members consist of musicians from the legendary Krautrock bands Neu! and Cluster, teamed up with Brian Eno in 1976 and recorded this music; which wouldn’t be released until 1997. Although the music does sound like a true collaboration, you can hear both future and past Eno in these analogue saturated tracks. Eno looks pretty pleased with himself on the cover and I don’t blame him – these Germans were at the forefront of electronic music. Also, not many albums have the members of the band drinking tea on the cover.
This 2009 re-release on vinyl is re-mastered and contains three tracks not found on the original 1997 issue. Side one starts with Welcome, one of the tracks not on the original release. It burbles and washes with keyboards and primitive synthesizers. Vampos Companeros chugs along like a menacing night train that, by the song’s end, sounds like it can’t stop. In contrast By This Riverside is an absorbing epic with beautiful analogue synth tones and rhythmic pulses.
Luneburg Heath is the only track with vocals, beautifully sung by Eno, but despite this I prefer the instrumental aspect of this collaboration. Sometimes in Autumn sounds like music made by a submarine and remixed by a stoned squid – it’s aquatic and definitely squelchy (a reference to Eno’s book of the same name?) Weird Dream is like wandering around in a fog on downers, but not being too worried about it even though you are hearing some strange noises coming from who knows where. The languid and elegiac sounds of Almost reminds you of parts of Eno’s excellent Before and After Science (1977), in particular the keyboards.
Les Demoiselles displays a stately jauntiness and could easily be the soundtrack to parading royalty from pre revolution France. When Shade Was Born and Trace are very short instrumental excursions, with repetitive unfolding keyboard motifs. Very tasteful but they sound like a warm up for grander ideas.
Aubade sounds like it is trying to reign itself in, which in some ways sums up this collaboration. Eno and Harmonia do sound like they were trying to pull each other in different directions, but it works and gives the music an edge despite its ambient textures. For someone who deliberately works behind the scenes, Brian Eno is so well known that it almost seems pointless to champion his musical achievements. If you are new to Eno then this isn’t really the place to start – the same can be said of Harmonia. But anyone who enjoys either artist should seek out this release. It’s a fascinating and obscure part of electronic music’s history.