1997: Harmonia & Eno ‘76 - Tracks & Traces

Rock history is littered with stories of almost-but-not-quite collaborations between various heroes and icons, leaving room for many a debate over what might have been if figures like Hendrix and Davis or Stipe and Cobain recorded together. Consequently, when such recordings of seemingly fleeting collaborations actually do surface, they are often greeted with anticipation but held to impossibly high standards. When Rykodisc offered the listening public an aural peek at the then unreleased 20-plus year's old meeting of Brian Eno, Hans Roedelius, Dieter Moebius, and Michael Rother in the form of Tracks & Traces, it was already the stuff of rock obsessive's fantasies. Now fulfilling fantasies of a higher order, Grönland's augmented release adds rediscovered material from that same dreamy collaboration to the mix, offering us an even wider window onto this previously unavailable vista.

At base level, both versions of the album live up to lofty expectations. Having more than proven himself as a forward-thinking solo artist with both populist and esoteric tendencies, Eno's 1976 encounter with Harmonia -- itself already a German supergroup composed of current and former members of Cluster, Neu, and Kraftwerk -- was for a long time known as the incidental precursor to the Cluster & Eno and Eno-Moebius-Roedelius albums issued in the later 70s. These sketches, first partially revealed in 1997, fall into that period where Eno's fabled experiments with ambient music were just beginning, and it's obvious that he was finding both inspiration and support from his krautrock conspirators. In fact, at the same time, Harmonia was already trending towards a new ambiance and away from the more driving, percussive sounds of Neu! and Cluster. As restless and jagged as Rother's guitar work is in "Vamos Companeros," its sheer repetition quickly dissolve into something more meditative. The rest of the collection toys with gorgeous analog synth haze as a defining element, evoking beauty and mystery in equal measure. It's a marvelous bridge from the (sometimes ironic) urgency of these artists' early-70s periods to the atmospheric fixations of their later work.

While it was Roedelius who assembled the first version of this release, it's only fitting that Rother, the member absent from the later 70s collaborations, is the one who has unearthed the new tracks and more fully fleshed out the set. With "Welcome" and "Atmosphere" now opening the record, there is a greater build to that almost-aggression of "Vamos Companeros," which works nicely to shift the overall pacing. And adding "Aubade" to the end, through both its title and hopeful (though still gauzy) guitar, offers a greater sense of completion. If 1997's Tracks & Traces was a rare and unexpected answer to rock nerd prayers, then 2009's edition is a most welcome and satisfying, if improbable, second coming.

1. Welcome
2. Atmosphere
3. Vamos Companeros
4. By the Riverside
5. Luneburg Heath
6. Sometimes in Autumn
7. Weird Dream
8. Almost
9. Les Demoiselles
10. When Shade Was Born
11. Trace
12. Aubade

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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