The sad death of Dieter Moebius in July ended one of krautrock’s most enduring musical partnerships. Between their ongoing Cluster recordings, Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius also invited Neu! guitarist Michael Rother to their fabled rural HQ in Forst to form the krautronica supergroup Harmonia, who recorded four albums of electro-acoustic pastorals between 1973 and 1976.
The trio’s easy chemistry still oozes from this lavishly packaged box set, a treasure trove of mellifluous music-box melodies and playful analogue squelches with echoes of vintage children’s TV themes such as The Clangers.
The trio’s second album, Deluxe, produced by German new wave studio legend Conny Plank, is arguably their most sonically rich and formally structured, layering Indian raga and Celtic folk textures into avant-muzak experiments like Walky Talky.
But Harmonia received more attention for their more uneven 1976 swansong Tracks And Traces, partly because it featured new fourth member Brian Eno. Then engaged in injecting kraut-infused flavours into Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, Eno was also gathering inspiration for his own ambient works of the late 70s. The stand-out pieces on the quartet’s sole joint album are extended proto-ambient sound paintings such as By The Riverside and Sometimes In Autumn.
The main focus here for hard-core devotees is the bonus disc of previously unissued material, which includes two sprawling, whooshing, throbbing electro-jazzoid jams recorded live in Hamburg in 1975. Both are interesting enough, although two shorter studio tracks – Proto-Deluxe and Tiki-Taka – are better, all flutey synthetic birdsong and sun-drowsy, vapour-trail guitar lines.
Four decades on, Harmonia still radiate an alluringly warm, innocent, other-worldly beauty.