Michael Rother is, just casually, a superstar. Founding member of Neu! And in some people’s world that alone is enough. Add in his work as part of Harmonia, the fact he was in an early version of Kraftwerk and his 10 solo albums over the last 40 years – including film soundtracks and special edition singles and side-projects and collaborations and, well, it’s an impeccable track-record.
On his first album in fifteen years he sounds as good as he ever has – though much of the spotlight is shared with vocalist Sophie Joiner. They first met in the mid-90s and a lot of the material here has been carved out from the leftovers recorded in the sessions for Rother’s last solo album, 2004’s Remember.
In the now familiar story of being faced with nothing to do work-wise following cancelled touring plans this year Rother went back to those sessions to build something new. His guitar pierces the sides of some of these tender ballads (Quiet Dancing) but it’s his production skills and the overall palette that best impresses throughout.
There are throwbacks to 90s/00s chill vibes – Fierce Wind Blowing is very reminiscent of Gorecki-era Lamb for instance. I think of the textures Tricky was conjuring on his first albums and the percussive strikes of Wopp-Wopp and Lovely Mess remind me somewhat of Bonobo – though of course it’s more than likely that Bonobo took these elements from Rother in the first place.
There are some beautiful noises here, so subtly controlled and crafted – Hey-Hey is all Peter Gabriel-shimmery with that winding, coiling guitar finding its own space in and around the vocal. The opening, title track immediately places us in the wider world of Krautrock-derived electronica; instant mood-setter.
And these are ‘songs’ too – actual songs, beautifully composed songs – not just moments and moods. In particular for me, Out In The Rain (late-period Bowie-esque) and Gravitas (Eno/Wobble, Harmonia) hold key melodic moments.
Joiner’s voice is perfect on so many of the songs here – Bitter Tang feeling like the very best thing Morcheeba might ever have done, and though it’s slightly worrying that I even mentioned them I mean it as nothing but a compliment.
Just a lovely album to drift to, a beautiful sounding set of songs full of delightful textures that never feel surprising for the sake of it, but it’s music that carries you down its river, music that guides you to its home.
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