The most important and consistently underrated space-rock unit of the '70s, Cluster (originally Kluster) was formed by Dieter Moebius, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler as an improv group that used everything from synthesizers to alarm clocks and kitchen utensils in their performances. Continuing on as a duo, Moebius and Roedelius eventually recorded many landmark LPs - separately, as a duo, and with all manner of guest artists from Brian Eno to Conny Plank to Neu!'s Michael Rother - in the field of German space music, often termed kosmische. Cluster also continued to explore ambient music into the '90s, long after their contemporaries had drifted into tamer new age music or ceased recording altogether.Zuckerzeit (Sugar Time) is a well titled release; after the stark and (at times) testing Cluster II, this is an altogether sweeter affair. The music here is much denser, with more colour and a much greater degree of poppiness, all lending the album a pleasingly light and upbeat feel. One very obvious difference to Cluster II is the extensive use of drum machines, meaning that where tracks had previously consisted of layers of synthesizer noise, they now have a definite rhythm, seeming to free the melodic side of the band. Actually, Zuckerzeit is an album put together by two separate artists operating under a collective title, with Moebius and Roedelius each contributing five tracks and while this kind of behaviour rarely produces a unified outcome, here the album holds together nicely. Although Cluster are less well known than the likes of Kraftwerk, this material deserves to be considered as being as influential and important in the development of electronic music. This is powerful and creative music and for anyone looking to venture into the less Rock side of Krautrock, or into groundbreaking electronic music, it s a very fine place to start.
Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius had only recently begun experimenting with pop structures on 1974's Zuckerzeit . Their previous albums as Cluster (and the trio of releases with Conrad Schnitzler as Kluster) were spacy exercises in cosmic ambience, often with dark undertones and spooky, unidentifiable sound effects. However, by this point, they had settled into concise tablets of electronic pop, using primitive drum machines and analog synthesizers to create pastel-colored robo-pop a sight more "human" than that of their Düsseldorf peers in Kraftwerk. Zuckerzeit lurches along with the unbalanced gait of a homemade music machine, yet is ever peaceful, perhaps curious about its own piecemeal construction. As their percolating parts rattle with analog grins, songs like "Marzipan" and "Heiße Lippen" seem perfectly content to drift by in effortless propulsion. Brian Eno (among others) picked up on the earthbound ambience at the heart of this music, but Zuckerzeit 's voice can also be followed through to Cologne and Kompakt, much of IDM and any other atmospheric dance music you care to name. --Dominique Leone
Review by John Bush
An unexpected jump from the extended kosmische jams of Cluster 71 into uncharted territory that signaled their direction for years to come, Zuckerzeit presented a vision of electronic pop, fusing the duo's haunted melodic sense with crisp, scratchy drum programs that provided a grounded focus to all those synthesizer warbles. Oddly, the ten short tracks have separate composer credits (five each), leading to the assumption that Roedelius handled more evocative synthesizer lines ("Hollywood," "Rosa") while Moebius pushed the group into experimental ground ("Rote Riki," "Caramba"). It's undoubtedly one of the most distinctive records in the Cluster discography, though the simple lack of space rock material makes it a difficult album to recommend from the outset.