Continuing (and concluding) a rather indulgent journey through albums released in 1977 broadly falling into the ‘electronic’ category. Having covered 10 – 6, here are the Top 5.
5 Jürgen Karg — Elektronische Mythen
Herr Karg played bass with jazz experimentalist Wolfgang Dauner on a (semi-) legendary 1969 recording. Eight years later he released his only solo album, an austere electronic work that evokes Stockhausen and early Klaus Schulze. Apparently he had been experimenting with synthesised sounds for several years, and Elektronische Mythen (Electronic Myths) was the result. Containing two side-long pieces of pure electronic music, it is an album of edits, reversals, pulses and eerily spacious noise. Stare at the cover photo, it will give you an idea of what to expect; skeletal fragments of chilly, controlled introspection. Not for neophyte electronic explorers.
4 Klaus Schulze — Body Love
It is almost certain more people have listened to the soundtrack of seventies porn film Body Love than have actually viewed it. Reason? The wonderful synthesiser music composed by the prolific Klaus Schulze to accompany the on-screen naughtiness. This is one of the quintessential analogue synth LPs: full of whooshes and swooshes, swirls and whirls, pulses and pan-galactic surges. Opener ‘Stardancer’ has all of this plus an angelic chorus, while ‘Blanche’ opens with plaintive piano. Truly, this sounds much more like a melodic Lust In Space than a European flesh flick. Yet the vintage (then state-of-the-art) keyboards inject a warmth and organic flow that manages to make Body Love a rather sexy LP. Unlike the film producers, Schulze even released a soundtrack sequel. So take off your hat and coat, and anything else that encumbers you, and r e l a x. You know what I mean.
3 Cluster & Eno — Cluster & Eno
Shimmering electronics and plangent piano; an air of misty reverie pierced with echoed sighs; a German experimental duo and a British non-musician. This collaboration between Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Cluster) with Brian Eno is a mesmerising—almost magic—trip into atmospheres both nostalgic and timeless. Touches of percussion and even some sitar add an immediacy and humanity to these pensive soundscapes. This album would make a fine entry point for the Cluster-curious. Just lovely.
2 Heldon — Interface
Without doubt one of the most singular and challenging hybrid electronic outfits of all time, Heldon’s albums are as far from Jean-Michel Jarre as it is possible to get in our current universe. A smash-up of Richard Pinhas’ dirty Frippian guitar (and electronics), Patrick Gauthier’s icy synths and the industrial guerrilla drumming of Francois Auger, Interface is New Age music for a world of alienation and simmering chaos. So still quite relevant, then. French speakers might manage a lop-sided Gallic grin at the dark humour of the song titles (‘The green flying saucer’, ‘Return of the flying saucer’, ‘Son of the flying saucer (green)’), but for the rest of us, this is a toboggan ride over the moguls of Mordor. Like the cover image, this is music both disturbing and oddly captivating.
1 Kraftwerk — Trans-Europe Express
The ultimate case for electronic music embracing romanticism, Trans-Europe Express is (often) my favourite Kraftwerk album and perhaps their most immediately accessible. The title suite—beginning with the opening ‘Europe endless’ then continuing on side two—evokes a train journey across the history and elegance (or decadence) of Western Europe. Rhythms gently rock and roll with the movement of a plush first-class railway compartment… Kraftwerk’s proto-dancefloor beats are only hinted at here. There are memorable, hummable melodies and a couple of thoughtful songs about authenticity and image (despite ‘singing’ being a somewhat loose word for how Hütter and Schneider deliver the words). If you can have lush minimalism, then TEE is it. If you can find space for just one Kraftwerk ticket in your collection (which would be a scandal, really), then this is it. Well ahead of schedule in 1977 and still taking passengers on a wonderful ride.