Today, Motherboard is premiering the music video for Roedelius Schneider's "Hohner Omen." Directed by Detlef Weinrich (Kriedler), the video features various spaces and objects rendered into kaleidscopic visuals. The gently morphing imagery matches the tranquil, meandering quality of "Hohner Omen," which almost sounds like early Air. This may be a heretical suggestion give that one half of Roedelius Schneider comes from groundbreaking electronic duo Cluster. Perhaps influences travel full circle.
Weinrich recorded the video footage roughly 10 years ago in Tibilisi, Georgia. "The rooms belonged to artists I’ve known for a while, and those rooms, or rather their atmosphere, were decisive for the choice of material for the video," says Weinrich. "They were filled with a mishmash of paper work, architectural models and material like neon tubes, cables, duct tape, matchboxes, arranged in naked ascetic rooms. A constructivist way of dealing with things that surround us—I find the reflections in the video work fascinating and it somehow reflects the nature of these collected items."
"The video was produced with simple technical equipment and that's how I work as a musician, too," Weinrich adds. "A limitation of possibilities which, I think, is really connected to Roedelius and Schneider."
It's not hyperbole to say that without former Cluster and Harmonia's Hans-Joachim Roedelius, electronic music might not exist in its current form. Roedelius's work, like Kraftwerk's, has taken multiple forms, from ambient to Krautrock and progressive, and various other sonic vistas. Roedelius is also rather prolific, releasing a solo album roughly once a year since 1981. But, for the last several years, Roedelius has been recording with Stefan Schneider (To Rococo Rot, Kreidler, Mapstation). The duo's first album, Stunden, mapped out the sonic territory: a fusion of Brian Eno and Erik Satie, according to Roedelius and Schneider. On Tiden, the duo aim for different sonic pastures.
Roedelius and Schneider consider the pieces on Tiden "concentrated, inspired études." Listening to the album, one can see why. The thirteen tracks are carefully arranged, and almost mathematical in structure. But, Tiden isn't music for those who live perpetually in a life of the mind. The album works just as well for chilling out as it does as a creative lubricant. It is not, however, background music. One plays Tiden with the intent to listen, not zone out.
Listen to sample tracks from Tiden
On a track like "Graden", for example, piano notes play against a multitude of electronic instrumentation and samples. A creaky chair acts as percussion, while washes of gentle static and breathing supply the atmospherics. It's a cinematic approach. One that gives way to something much hypnotic and propulsive with the track "Toast."
Roedelius told Motherboard that most of the tracks were done over the course of three recording sessions at his place near Vienna, Austria. Schneider then travelled back to Düsseldorf to start production and mixing.
"Stefan brought a few sketches, programmed his Evolver Synthesizer or his 808 rhythm machine, and then we improvised on those sketches," says Roedelius. "We wanted to do the recording as live as possible and not simply collect old material. I'm used to working out of the moment so that I’m not able to play piano lines twice; besides the ones I loved so much when they first appeared that I 'dared to learn' them."
Roedelius and Schneider, who cite Franz Schubert's Moments Musicaux—six short solo piano pieces—as an influence, describe the album as "absolute music." They wanted to create an album that "desires only to be itself, without ulterior effects and with the declared intent of involving the listener in [an] emotional, inventive game." The two play well off each other, with Roedelius typically at piano on Tiden, and Schneider on synths and other effected instruments.
As with Four Tet and legendary jazz drummer Steve Reid, Roedelius and Schneider demonstrate that when it comes to music, generational gaps are illusory. Roedelius, at 78, is several decades older than Schneider, but Tiden could have been released almost any time in the last five decades. If anything, Roedelius and Schneider bring different things to the table, then weave it together seamlessly.
After a good number of listens, one realizes that études is precisely what Roedelius Schneider created. And it's further proof that, of all the German experimental electronic music talent in his generation, Roedelius has the deepest reservoir of ideas. We also realize that Stefan Schneider, who has been working in electronic and post-rock forms for the last twenty years, should be far more well known stateside. Tiden should rectify that oversight.