Odds are if you’re familiar with Michael Rother round about 2019, its from his work with Neu! or Harmonia. If you’re digging deep, perhaps from his short stint with Kraftwerk. This month, however, the light gets shown on Rother’s tight but enticing catalog of solo works as his label Groenland issues them in the box set SOLO. The tone in his works always captured a sense of wonder, but with Neu! there was also a feeling of modernity as well. Following his move to the smaller hamlet of Frost, in Northern Germany and his connection with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius to form Harmonia, there slipped in a bucolic calm, but also (often to Rother’s chagrin) a formless float that wasn’t tethered to the heartbeat hum that had been his bedrock.
In 1976 the members all looked to solo ideas and Rother embarked on Flammende Herzen, which kept the calmer shades and lush atmospherics of his country surroundings but added in a bit more backbone than Harmonia had offered. This could quite rightly be attributed to excellent contributions by producer Conny Plank and Can’s own Jaki Liebezeit, but Rother’s vision was sound even without his ringers. The resulting album revels in natural wonder, working effervescent rhythms and Rother’s dewy guitar leads into an album that’s a soundtrack to the sun.
Surprised by its success Rother dove back in with a renewed confidence and a bigger budget, given that the solo album was outselling any of his previous works at home. Sterntaler follows much of the same feelings as the first LP before he broke new ground with ‘79’s Katzenmusic (inspired by his love of Cats) incorporating a less restrictive beat and a wider palette of instrumentation than before. While the record doesn’t exactly inspire mewling, its another instrumental dip into the blissful end of the pool, albeit now with a looser handle on the sticks and sequences. Quite sadly for audiences, this blissed trip would also be his last with Conny Plank at the controls. As he slid into his last, and quite frankly darkest period for ‘82’s Fernwarme, he’d leave behind his veteran producer in the process.
This last album in the set still retains Rother’s deft hand on the strings and synths, but turns a bit darker and away from his pastoral times, centering more on life in Hamburg than his idyll out in Forst. Jaki remains on the drums, giving the album another rhythmic tie in – looser still like Fernwarme wound up, but the record doesn’t capture the bliss as well as some of the others. The set’s rounded out with new live cuts and remixes, along with some soundtrack work, but its thos core four albums that make up the true meat of SOLO – a complete picture of Rother’s imprint on the guitar world bound up in one fine form. If you’re a fan of any of his other bands, not to mention other German Progressives like Ashra, Manuel Göttsching, Tangerine Dream, then this set seems like a solid place to spend a little time.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.