Album: HARMONIA – Live 1974 (Grönland CDGRON78 2007)

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These tapes languished in a vault somewhere for 33 years before being dusted down and given a release. The trio of Michael Rother, Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius recorded it on March 23rd 1974 at an old railway station-cum-venue in Griessem, a small town half way between Hannover and Bielefeld in north-west Germany. The ‘concert’ aspect of the recording is lacking since there is nary a murmur to be heard from the audience. Generally, though, the sound quality is good, but the electronic beats sound cheap and tinny, and there is a lack of dynamism leaving it feeling a little flat.

The recording dates from a period between Harmonia’s two studio efforts Musik von Harmonia and Deluxe. Only “Veteranissimo”, an seventeen minute take on “Veterano” from the first record, ever made it on to a studio set. The five pieces here are largely lengthy groove-based improvisations, three surging well past the ten minute mark. There are is an element of the Neu motorik beat present, but these pieces don’t quite have the same urgency and have an occasional tendency to meander. The most successful tracks are the ones where Rother’s guitar is pushed to the fore, as it is on “Arabesque”, a (relatively) short piece which is basically an extended guitar solo laid over a burbling, oscillating synthesiser.

Close your eyes and “Holta-Polta” could almost an extended demo of the Black Dog’s “Pot Noodle”, recorded twenty years later. Live 1974 is a good album on its own terms, but is going to be more of interest to students of the era than those who just want some wigged out avant-prog electronica to groove to. This is the sound of three musicians pushing limited, primitive equipment to the max. The ideas are sometimes hidebound by the limitations of the technology, but that is part of the charm. Harmonia lasted barely 18 months before Rother returned to Neu for one album, and then on to a solo career, whilst the other two reverted to their day job as Cluster.

Tracks:
1 Schaumberg 10:45
2 Veteranissimo 17:25
3 Arabesque 5:20
4 Holta-Polta 15:00
5 Ueber Ottenstein 9:30

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