Groenland Records is an independent record label founded by an artist, who always treated other artists with respect. That in itself is already unusual, normally Labels are not run by artists.
Groenland also operates with the greatest possible transparency. That enables the artists to understand and influence processes within the label, everyday .
A small team and efficient international structures allow us to confine ourselves to only a few artists and working with them intensively over a long period of time. Thus we are able to recognize and support the needs of our artists. For us, not the marketing strategy in the foreground,
but the vision and the special thing about our artists, without losing the economic aspects out of eyesight. Stylistically, we sit on the fence and only count the quality of the music.
Therefore, our roster ranges from the legendary electronic pioneers NEU !,
Harmonia and DAF to international acts, such as William Fitzsimmons, Metric and
Susanne Sundfør and nationally successful artists such as Philipp Poisel, BOY and Philipp Dittberner.
THE ARTISTS / RECORDS
“La Düsseldorf”, of the legendary band from Düsseldorf, begins with a recording of cheering football fans, perhaps from the local stadium that is home to Fortuna Düsseldorf. The sampled fan choruses seem to echo the euphoric excitement with which listeners and critics well beyond Germany’s borders received the first Electri_city sampler. It is also advance praise of sorts – and absolutely justifiably: Electri_city II launches listeners on an intelligent and sophisticated roller coaster ride through one of the most integral chapters of recent German music history. Klaus Dinger and his seminal Neu! follow-up band La Düsseldorf then plunge into the distinct Motorik beat that would become the trademark of an eclectic genre – and we find ourselves smack in the middle of the musical innovations of the era. While the first compilation promoted the release of Rudie Esch’s book Electri_city – Elektronische_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf, which sold out shortly after publication by Suhrkamp Verlag and has been reissued several times over, Electri_city II accompanies the release of the book in English translation. This development once again shows the great interest in the Düsseldorf sound of the 1970s and 1980s – and how the pioneers of that era created such a broad range of works that there is always something new to discover. Or, to quote La Düsseldorf: “Look / Go on, look!” (Guck mal / Guck doch mal!) – it’s worth it! Electri_city II can be viewed as the continuation in a series: the over hour-long compilation of well-known and entirely forgotten songs further highlights just how varied the sound born in Düsseldorf could be – and the hallmarks that unified it. New instruments – Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, Roland System 100, MC4, the legendary Korg MS-20 and the Roland TR- 808 – allowed the musicians to develop a completely novel hybrid musical style that fused punk and classical training as they moved between the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Ratinger Hof pub and the Studio für elektronische Musik in Cologne. The synthetic-organic electronic music scene was the meeting place of virtuosity and dilettantism; “Experiment!” was the mantra in the rehearsal rooms of the Rhein-Ruhr city. Sometimes, while listening, one gets the sense that the machines are experimenting with the people operating the buttons, keys and switches. Along with its historical contribution, this Grönland Records compilation also has significant value on the level of pure enjoyment: NEU!’s “Isi”, Rother’s “Karussell” and Wolfgang Riechmann’s dreamlike “Abendlicht” take the listener on a trip through the clouds, while DAF, Liaisons Dangereuses and Die Krupps dance around down below, stomping heavy boots on the dirty floors of the Düsseldorf underground. Electri_city II brings together the eccentric protagonists of an eventful period as it glides along on a panoramic tour through the electronic canon of North Rhine-Westphalia’s capital city; it also unearths long lost treasures: Teja Schmitz’s moans on the track “Studieren”, for example, are likely to be largely unknown to most listeners. This makes itall the nicer to again be able to hear the song by the regular hairstylist of the Düsseldorf electronic music scene. Teja’s straightforward work is, so to speak, synonymous with the time between 1970 and 1986; there is a clumsiness to it, the music machines clearly take on a life of their own, accompanied by the sounds of a person diligently working the controls. Listening to it is a musical adventure.
Interview with Rudiger ESCH who talk about his book titled « Elektronische Musik aus Dusseldorf » and the accompanying compilation « Electri_City 2 » !
I HAVE A TRIBE
Dubliner Patrick O’Laoghaire aka I Have A Tribe calls himself an unfinished man, and he says it feels good to be an unfinished man. What he doubtlessly means is that he keeps learning, and that it will never stop. And, in all honestly, if this constant search for knowledge manifests itself in sounds like the ones from his latest project I Have A Tribe, one sincerely hopes the likeable Irishman never ceases to learn. His tracks have an organic, three-dimensional quality that lends them a rarely found sincerity; his music is, at times, fragile, with the sound of tender, dreamy chamber music – then it expands, careering forward and unfolding an unforeseen energy.
In the short period of time in which Patrick O’Laoghaire has been active as I Have A Tribe, his songwriting has become even more complex. A distinct leap can be observed from the melancholic indie gem “Yellow Raincoats” to more recent songs such as “Animals” – the range of emotions Patrick O’Laoghaire is now able to evoke has grown more colourful in a brief timespan: sounds of fury and outrage intermingle with the casual sorrowfulness of his first songs. Patrick himself sees it similarly: he wants to project the colours in his head into the outside world, he wants his music to paint pictures. And it does, sometimes with sweeping brush strokes of light and joyous hues – then, in the next moment, things grow turbulent, as a paint-laden brush nearly tears the canvas, leaving jagged forms in a wild mix of red and black. I Have A Tribe brings the entire colour palette to life, and – just as the fine arts – transcends boundaries and time to create a plane of communication that uses unfiltered emotional expression to achieve its gripping intensity.
A search for similar artist spits out bands like Midlake, whose folky instrumentation I Have A Tribe most closely resembles, yet, here and there, versatile electronic sound bites surface; the synthesizer parts in “Calgary” are reminiscent of Bowie’s Berlin phase and unquestionably invoke his masterpiece Low. And, in some more intense moments, he brings a musical power that is reminiscent of Warren Ellis’s Band The Dirty Three; vocally, Patrick can be compared to Antony, the supremely talented New York-based transgender singer – and Tom Waits but, somehow, none of that really captures it… Patrick’s music is too unique to be pigeonholed.
The dreamy and extremely placid Dubliner has, with producer Rob Ellis, managed to realize the sound he envisioned. Ellis helped him transfer his colour palette to the recording. With references that include PJ Harvey and Scott Walker, Ellis was the perfect candidate for the job: with the help of Conor O’Brien of Villagers – for whom I Have A Tribe has already had the pleasure of opening for several times – they have recorded a couple of handfuls of great tracks. And although Patrick always views music as something fleeting, something bound to the moment in which it is created – like a bird’s song – these EPs from I Have A Tribe have captured those fleeting moments to a degree and have made a one-off event relivable. So let’s hope he keeps learning – and that he lets us listen!
Fitzsimmons’ path into music came at the influence and education of his parents, both of whom filled his childhood home with a myriad of instruments, sing-a-longs, and theoretical instruction. However, far from being a mere pastime in the Fitzsimmons’ household, music was a communicative necessity between William and his parents, both of whom being blind, relied on the language of music to bridge the relational gap between themselves and a child who experienced the world entirely differently from them.
During his collegiate and post-graduate years, William Fitzsimmons left music behind in order to pursue a career in the mental health field; becoming a therapist was a long-held aspiration. Upon completion of a Master’s Degree in counseling, he worked as a therapist with the severely mentally ill for several years. It was during the later part of his training that he began to write songs as both a preparative exercise for his work in the psychiatric field, and as a personal catharsis to deal with his own long-standing psychological maladies.
His first two albums, homemade and self-produced, were expositions on both his unorthodox upbringing and his family’s disintegration during his youth. Their understated presentation and overt descriptions of relational and familial disillusionment met quickly and potently with listeners. Very soon thereafter, still working within psychology, William found his songs spreading broadly and being featured on national television programs. However, the process of such revelatory writing and rumination was taking a gradual and heavy toll. During the making of the Goodnight album, Fitzsimmons saw most of the segments of his life begin to tear asunder.
Fitzsimmons’ third effort, 2008’s The Sparrow and the Crow, was a detailed and afflictive retelling of the events surrounding his divorce from his wife of nearly ten years. Written as a personal apology to her, the album is a foreboding but genuine tale of misfortune and a reconciling of the darkest point of his life. It was named iTunes’ Best Folk Album of that same year. Following the release of Sparrow, William would take a moratorium from songwriting for over two years.
Fitzsimmons’ release, Gold In The Shadow, is a musical reflection of the personal resuscitation and psychological renovation, which took place in the years following his divorce. Based on a specific set of psychopathological disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV), he describes the songs as “a real and long coming confrontation with personal demons, past mistakes, and the specter of mental illness that has hovered over me for the great majority of my life.” However, whereas nearly the whole of William’s previous albums have dealt with the bleak and somber side of inter- and intrapersonal disaster, Gold is a work focused on healing. William continues: “I had reached the point where I was either going to yield to my sicknesses or engage them headlong. In either case, I could no longer continue the way I was.”
Gold In The Shadow represents a welcomed musical departure, not from authenticity in writing, but in the field of focus. It is a return to his pre-music therapeutic passions, but with one eye now fixated on actual and optimistic change. It is ripe with personal elements, but also represents his first foray into external perspective taking; examining the lives and psychological struggles of those around him in addition to his own. It is an acknowledgement of the shadow self and the Todestrieb (Freud’s “death instinct”); but, even still and more so, an acceptance of hope.
Lions is a musical reflection of the personal renovation that’s taken place since 2010’s Gold In The Shadow. Best summed up by Fitzsimmons himself.
The follow up release, Pittsburgh is William Fitzsimmons way of dealing with the death of his beloved grandmother. The seven songs to the mini-album only needed three days to be written. While William Fitzsimmons was staying in Pittsburgh in order to carry his grandmother. Subsquently, the songs are all about his late grandmother. »I Had To Carry Her (Virginias Song)« colours the melancholy of a long life, where »Ghosts Of Penn Hills« is a mezmerising ode to his much admired grandmother and the part of the city where they both lived:
Ten years after Valeska Steiner’s and Sonja Glass’ first encounter, sowing the seeds that would later grow into BOY, little has changed. Little, that is, apart from the small matter of tens of thousands of records sold, several years spent travelling the world, and a clutch of glittering awards. To meet them, however, you really wouldn’t know. Though they remain given to pensive moments of deliberation, they continue to finish each other’s sentences with a knowing, infectious chuckle, and, deep down, they’re still the same enthusiastic, charming, funny women they were when they released their debut album, Mutual Friends, in 2011.
There are many remarkable things about this charismatic duo, but the manner in which both women have kept their feet on the ground as their stars have ascended is endearingly refreshing. Their unpretentious but engaging nature is indicative of the music on WE WERE HERE, BOY’s long awaited second album, a short, sharp burst of delightful melodies, perfectly poised craft and mischievous grace. Its sunlit splashes of sweetness, offset by the comforting afterglow of bittersweet melancholy, confirm the tenderness at the heart of songs whose simplicity seems effortless, whether it be the roof-raising anthem that is ‘Fear’, the brittle jangle of ‘Flames’, or the dreamy, dazed ‘Into The Wild’; whether the good-humoured teasing of ‘Hit My Heart’, the wistful ‘Hotel’ or the brooding majesty of ‘We Were Here’. But their modesty is misleading: Steiner and Glass’s easy-going nature belies their determination to write songs that endure, streamlined compositions in which every note is intrinsic to their artistry. It’s this that explains their silence for the whole of 2014. When they finally returned at the end of the previous year from international expeditions to spread word of their music, they resolved to write a record that not only matched, but even eclipsed the ingenuous magic of their debut.
Having formed two and a half years after their original meeting – once Steiner had left her native Zurich, Switzerland, to move to Hamburg, where Glass grew up – they spent a while finding their voice, driving in Steiner’s mother’s car to low key shows, wherever they could get them, before Groenland Records signed them in 2011. Within twelve months of Mutual Friends’ release, they were headlining Hamburg’s 4,000 capacity Stadtpark, and the next couple of years were spent performing songs like ‘Little Numbers’ and ‘This Is The Beginning’ to entranced audiences across the globe.
Fans will be relieved to hear that BOY’s fundamental methodology remains intact for WE WERE HERE: Glass writes music which she then passes to Steiner, who works on lyrics and melodies before they refine the resulting songs together, calling upon producer Philipp Steinke for a third perspective to help bring out their best even further. But though the muted guitars that characterised parts of their first album are still present, it’s clear that, as Glass puts it,
Her purchase of a Juno synthesiser provided the impetus for this proposed evolution. “That became my muse,” she recalls. “Otherwise we used almost the same instruments, but somehow made them sound different.”
While most bands might feel the weight of expectation as they faced that ‘difficult second album’, the only pressure that Steiner and Glass experienced was their inherent desire to progress. Their perfectionist streak, and love for small details, ensured that, on several songs, they experimented with different arrangements, and they consequently allowed themselves time “to find out how best to dress the songs,” says Steiner. “The two of us were always working. We weren’t at the studio all the time, but we always wrote, then went to the studio for two or three weeks, then back to writing.” They travelled between Hamburg, Berlin, the German countryside and Italy, but though the album sounds more lavishly produced, the process wasn’t quite as glamorous as that sounds. “We feel very comfortable in small spaces where you can live and cook,” Steiner says, before Glass elaborates: “We take all our equipment with us and just rent a small flat.”
By early 2015, their meticulous approach had paid off. Every bit as delicious as Mutual Friends, WE WERE HERE is an album of renewed depth and sophistication that maintains all the qualities that first made BOY so special, with Glass’ ear for the emotional wrench of a subtle key change and her gift for an uncluttered arrangement suitably complemented by Steiner’s affectingly direct lyrics. It finds the two operating with their trademark sensitivity, addressing the intrusion of a partner’s problems in a relationship on the tumbling rush of ‘Fear’ and the autumnal ‘Flames’ – which, unusually, features lyrics written by Glass – while both the cautious but magnetic optimism of the finely woven ‘Into The Wild’ and ‘Rivers Or Oceans’’ irresistible fragility explore the excitement and anxiety that permeate difficult decisions.
Additionally, on ‘Hit My Heart’ (which finds Phoenix’s Thomas Hedlund on drums, just as he was on a number of tracks on Mutual Friends) they gently mock a contemporary culture of selfies and social networking angst – a world “all covered in exclamation marks” – as they long for “a wave of heat that hits the heart”, the song’s melody skipping breezily through its carefree, plucked strings over a playful rhythm. And even if ‘Hotel’ (the only song written before BOY’s 2014 sojourn) sympathetically imagines the mysterious, isolated lives of those who spend their time travelling – without ever resorting to tired, life on the road clichés – it’s balanced out by the confident swagger of ‘No Sleep For The Dreamer’, which details the thrill of a possibly life-altering first encounter, as well as the joyful celebration of life that is the title track, with its defiant declaration that time can never erode the marks we leave upon each other or the world at large:
Then there’s ‘New York’, whose intricate, sparkling guitar lines provide the ideal, uplifting accompaniment for Steiner’s touching lyric – with its pivotal line, “Anywhere with you could be New York” – about reawakening oneself to the pleasures of one’s immediate surroundings. It’s a poignant illustration of the transformative power of BOY’s imagination, but also of the strong bond that unites Steiner and Glass. Together, despite their achievements and adventures, the two women have remained connected to the world that first inspired them, allowing them to remain in touch with the little things that affect us all, and which they’ve always been so good at identifying and articulating. Even touring, Glass jokes, is like “a big school vacation thing. We still play with the same musicians, and they’re some of our closest friends, plus the crew around us hasn’t changed either.”
All of this ensures that WE WERE HERE not only confirms the reputation that BOY earned with Mutual Friends, but also further underlines their flair for an intimately detailed, precious songcraft that speaks to men and women, of men and women, about singular, yet universal, moments in our lives. Just as the album’s title track speaks of the wonders that existence can offer, and how cherishing life’s memories can keep the past alive, so it could almost be applied to BOY themselves, and the songs that they write. Of course, they’d be far too humble to agree, but nonetheless, as Steiner sings, “Our echoes resonate.”
Und genau das erreicht auch die Musik des zweiten Albums der Band, GEISTER. Ein liebevolles und vielschichtiges Album. Es unterhält, nimmt mit, schafft einen Raum, in den man eintauchen kann. Gleichzeitig macht es einen für bestimmte Dinge einfühlsamer, sensibler, aufmerksamer. Das alles geschieht ohne erhobenen Zeigefinger, auf eine sanfte Art, in der auch Klavierpedale knarzen dürfen und nicht jedes unliebsame Geräusch herausgeschnitten wurde.
Die Texte fesseln, doch sie liefern keine Parolen, sie stiften Gedanken. GLORIA greifen Dinge auf, die wir zu übersehen drohen um sie behutsam in unseren Blick zu legen. In „Stolpersteine“ etwa, einem Stück gegen das Leugnen und Vergessen. „Geister“ erzählt davon, wie ein Mensch sich mit den falschen Idealen selbst begräbt, welche Gefahren ein unreflektiertes Dasein in sich trägt: „… du wirst voller Stolz alles was noch kommen soll begraben wollen …“ In „Heilige und Hunde“ wird dieser Gedanke aufgegriffen, diesmal radikaler: Das Stück kreist thematisch um blinden Gehorsam.
All diese Dinge drohen uns im Laufe des eigenen Lebens unwichtiger vorzukommen, denn zu groß wirken die kleinen Ereignisse, die einem selber jeden Tag widerfahren. Diese auch an sich selbst festgestellte Entwicklung ist für GLORIA wie ein „… schwaches Gift, das langsam reift und unbemerkt um sich greift“. Und wenn es in dem Titel „Schwaches Gift“ einen Zeigefinger geben sollte, so zeigt er erst einmal auch auf sich selbst. Ohne diese Erfahrung wären einige Beobachtungen auf Geister auch gar nicht möglich gewesen.
Ein musikalisch und inhaltlich facettenreiches Album, das bewegt. GEISTER erscheint am 07.08.2015.
Mit nur einem Song hat der 25-jährige Berliner es binnen weniger Tage in unzählig viele Ohren und Herzen geschafft. Er kann das alles auch noch gar nicht so richtig fassen: „Ich erinnere mich noch gut daran, wie ich vor zwei Jahren mit einem Menschen, der oft auch in meinen Liedern auftaucht, im Admiralspalast in Berlin auf einem Konzert saß. Da waren 1.700 Leute! Und meine Begleitung guckte mich an und sagte: Philipp, eines Tages stehst du auch da oben!“ Zwei Jahre später ist es dann wirklich so weit. Und nicht nur der Admiralspalast jubelt: Philipp spielt im Frühjahr seine erste Solotour, jedes (!) der Konzerte ist ausverkauft, auch die Zusatzshows. Auch zwischen den Songs weiß er dabei seine Fans zu berühren, und wenn er spielt ist es dann wie eine Umarmung: Mit seiner selbstbewussten und gleichzeitig kleinen, romantischen Musik spült Philipp seine Geschichten an den Strand einer jungen, sehnsüchtigen Generation. Minimalistisch mit einer organisch gespielten Akustikgitarre besingt Philipp jene illustren Gefühlswelten, die jeder Mensch kennt, die in die richtigen Worte zu kleiden aber immer eine große Herausforderung ist: Liebe, Sehnsucht und die « lust for live ».
Die live akustisch gespielten Stücke, auf ihr Wesentlichstes reduziert, entstanden zunächst mit synthetischer Unterstützung vom pointierten Beatbastler Marv. Die Zusammenarbeit entstand aus einem musikalischen Pingpong-Spiel: Der junge Berliner Philipp Dittberner und Marv aus Hannover kannten sich gar nicht persönlich, waren im Netz aufeinander gestoßen und schickten sich fortan Songfragmente hin- und her, bastelten. »Wolke 4«, Dittberners erster Hit, war also bereits vor dem ersten Handschlag der beiden Musiker geschrieben. Und wenn man dem melancholischen Stück folgt, das so friedlich und unschuldig klingt und gleichzeitig so vielen Menschen Identifikation bietet, sieht man das Szenario fast bildhaft vor sich: Philipp sitzt mit seiner geliebten Akustikgitarre auf einem Hocker, seine Stimme sprüht ein buntes Leben in den Raum, der Saal ist bis auf ihn ganz still. Alle lauschen den farbenfroh verträumten Texten, die so viel Wärme in sich tragen und so viel davon zu geben haben, kleben an seinen Lippen. „Lieber Wolke 4 mit dir als unten wieder ganz allein“ singt Dittberner in »Wolke 4« – das sind die authentischen, lebenshungrigen Weisheiten eines jungen Mannes, gekleidet in ein warmes, sonniges Soundgewand. Kein Wunder, dass alle mehr davon wollen! Gut, dass Philipp seit Anfang des Jahres im Studio ist. Im Festivalsommer wird er nun auch größere Bühnen namhafter Festivals bespielen, bereits im Herbst folgt eine Tour mit kompletter Band.
“They were a long way from the world of ‘entertainment.’ I didn’t want entertaining at the time. They came — at least spiritually — from the world of German experimental music: Stockhausen, Darmstadt, etc.”
The story begins in 1971, when Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster moved from Berlin to the wilds of Forst, deep in the countryside of Lower Saxony, next to the Weser River. In Forst, they made their homes within three grand, crumbling houses built several centuries ago.
Michael Rother visited Forst in in early 1973. Rother recalls. “When Klaus Dinger and I tried to put NEU! on stage in ’72 in Düsseldorf after releasing the first album, it was impossible to find the right musicians for touring because nobody understood our ideas.
I remembered Cluster and their track „Im Süden“, and because I saw similarities in the harmonic approach I decided to pay them a visit in Forst.” Rother brought his guitar along, and jammed with Roedelius.
“This sounds romantic — it was like love at first sight,” says Rother. “The two instruments we played together immediately clicked, and so I decided to put NEU! on hold. Roedelius and Moebius were equally excited about the idea of the three of us working together and so six weeks later, I left Düsseldorf and NEU! behind and moved to Forst. That’s how Harmonia started.”
The differences in musical temperament between Roedelius, Moebius and Rother were clear from the outset. “We are three people and we each have our own kind of music,” says Moebius. Of the three, Rother was the only who had something resembling musical training; “As a teenager in the ‘60s I started by copying my musical heroes on the guitar and, by doing that, learning the basics of pop music,” Rother says. Moebius, meanwhile, had noisier, more anarchic inclinations. “I’m more of the punk guy,” he says with a laugh. Roedelius was more overtly romantic and melodic, but his approach to making music had more in common with Moebius than with Rother. “Moebius and I didn‘t know about music very much when we started,” Roedelius says. “I was a physiotherapist and Möbi was a graphic designer. We liked to do music and had to find what fit to us, to find our own sound language… When Michael came into the game it changed our approach to what we did. We learned a lot about how to compose.”
Few people know that the name ‘Harmonia’ was initially a joke. “In Germany it’s popular to call a choir a ‘Harmonia’ something, like ‘Harmonia Düsseldorf’…we found this signpost in the cellar saying ‘Harmonia Ottenstein’, a place near Forst, we chose that name. That was a joke from the beginning. Hardly anyone gets that joke.”
Life in the rambling, rural environs of Forst was as much about surviving with little money as it was about making music. “It’s a very important part of the game that we were able to live at that place, in that beautiful island of silence and beauty, surrounded by cows and horses and geese and pigs,” says Roedelius. “Going to the forest and cutting wood and doing the gardens, that was part of it. I think if we wouldn‘t have been living there it wouldn‘t have been the same thing at all.”
Indeed, the music of Harmonia is part and parcel of the lush landscape of Forst, and its communal spirit. “I cannot see a house or a road when I look out of the window and over the river — it’s just fields and mountains and green,” says Rother.” Roedelius calls Forst an “island in the midst of reality.”
Harmonia released their debut album, Musik von Harmonia, in 1974. The striking Pop Art cover of a detergent bottle, designed by Moebius, gave the band an instantly iconic and modern look. Each track sounded completely different, from the rhythmic “Watussi“ to the shimmering ambience of “Sehr Kosmisch.” Harmonia recorded and mixed the album themselves, in Forst. “We had three [tape] machines, Revox type, and a very primitive mixer,” says Rother. “The advantage was we could work whenever we wanted and didn‘t have a studio clock ticking away. The record sales, however, were very disappointing, our love for the music was not echoed by the public” says Rother.
Harmonia’s second album, Deluxe (1975), was co-produced by the brilliant producer and engineer Conny Plank, who had worked with NEU!, Cluster, Kraftwerk, and many other bands. At that time, Plank had started his own studio near Cologne. He brought a 16-track mobile MCI recording machine and a small mixing desk to Forst. Plank stayed in Forst for about two weeks, and Mani Neumeier, the energetic drummer of Guru Guru, also joined in on a few of the tracks. Deluxe was recorded on Plank’s equipment in Forst in the summer of 1975, and mixed at his studio soon afterwards.
“We were very fortunate to have a figure like Conny Plank around, because he was equally crazy,” says Rother. “We didn‘t have to push him to experiment; we were all on the same level. Everybody was looking for new expressions, a new way of creating the sound. It was a very creative process, working with Conny. I remember some really wonderful moments, because he was so talented in picking up your ideas. We never theorized about music, we were intuitive players, musicians. The same with Conny — we didn‘t explain, or try to put into words what we were doing.”
Deluxe is a breathtaking album, a clear departure in style. It was the most ‘pop’ that Harmonia ever became, with tighter song structures than the more sprawling landscapes of Musik von Harmonia.
However, the difference in ideas about their music became apparent and hard to handle for Roedelius, Rother and Moebius. After struggling for months about the direction the music of Harmonia should take, Harmonia split up in 1976, but the group briefly reunited later that year to record in Forst with Eno, who was en route to Montreux to work on Low with David Bowie. Brian Eno had met Harmonia in 1974, during a Harmonia concert at Fabrik in Hamburg; Eno jumped on stage to jam with the band for the second half of their set.
The band had already decided to part ways when Eno came to Forst. “Brian came when Harmonia was already dead,” says Roedelius. “We stopped working together, each of us had already recorded albums individually in the summer of ’76 but one day Brian called that he would like to come.“
“When we worked together we didn’t have a hierarchy at all…it was a small anarchic state we lived in,” says Eno. “The surprise came when I started making the music into songs, which was not an area that Harmonia had explored much before. For me, always teetering on the edge of disenchantment with songwriting, this new way into it was thrilling. We made music, and sometimes the music turned into songs. There was no pressure for them to do this.”
There was no plan to record an album, only to enjoy the exchange of ideas and to record them. In later years, the tapes were not available for many years and thought to be lost. “Tape was so unbelievably expensive — that was the biggest limit with all our recording,” says Rother. “We had to re-record over our original recordings because we couldn‘t afford to buy blank tape. It was such a problem that when Brian Eno came to visit us in ’76, he brought two or three blank tapes along. I had a four-track recording machine, and he took those tapes with him, meaning to return to Forst and continue the collaboration. But that didn’t happen so the tapes were lost for a long time, until Joachim found two of the tapes in the archives in London.”
After the Harmonia sessions in 1976 with Eno, the group went their separate ways. Roedelius, Moebius and Rother continued to record albums, either solo or in collaborations with other musicians. Their music has inspired generations of musicians and these days it appeals to audiences, young and old, in a way Roedelius, Moebius and Rother couldn’t have imagined in the 1970s.
Despite the differences, there was a shared vision with Harmonia, too. “We were all different individuals — that was clear from the beginning,” says Rother. “But we were similar in our wish for freedom: freedom in the way we chose to live, and in our wish to be independent from record companies and to live a free life. That was something we had in common.”
Harmonia lives on as a document of that magical time in Forst. “It was a good combination,” says Roedelius.