Hans-Joachim Roedelius is a pivotal figure in 20th-century electronic and experimental music and its ever-shifting dialogue with pop. His earliest work with the important German ensemble Cluster, often described as “Krautrock without the rock,” is emblematic/symptomatic of the first principles and obsessions of the electronic avant-garde: Let the machines do the work, son. There is no pop in sight, but there are abundant and masterful textures and moods, as well as the partly intentional, partly indeterminate motion of machines in conversation. Cluster also distinguished itself from the start as an impure electronic group in that they welcomed toy pianos, Hawaiian guitars and metallic garbage into their mix, perhaps inspired by the pre-electronic and academic avant-garde of John Cage and LaMonte Young.
But as the prolific duo of Roedelius and Dieter Moebius continued (joining forces for a time with Neu! Guitarist Michael Rother and, shortly thereafter, with Brian Eno for a pair of exceptional records), they – especially Roedelius – moved rapidly toward more grounded rhythmic and engagingly melodic work, foreshadowing the genres to be known as ambient and trance. By the time Roedelius released his solo debut, 1978’s genre classic Durch die Wüste, the parameters of his style were fairly well-delineated: reflective and softy tuneful at times, prone to outbursts of actual rock and interested as ever in weft and pattern and the mind of its own.
Like so many composers of his genres, Roedelius puts the “pro” in process and in prolific. More than 50 years into his career, the releases are steady and diversified without ever really leaving home turf. Some of his rash of recent releases are oriented toward “sound events,” some toward Roedelius’ lovely and piquant sense of tune and Minimalist structure.
A living legend of electronic and ambient music and a perfect charmer much of the time, Hans-Joachim Roedelius performs at the Studley Theater at SUNY-New Paltz on Sunday, October 22 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost a mere $8, with student and senior discounts available. For more information, visit www.newpaltz.edu/music/concertseries.html.