Saturday, July 25, 2015

Song of the day

"The Belldog", by Eno, Moebius, Roedelius.

And so we pay our respects to German musician Dieter Moebius, who died earlier in the week. You will find plenty of worthwhile and knowledgeable tributes elsewhere; these are my personal thoughts only.

In my previous missive, I made reference to the extent to which Brian Eno has led me to other things. The music of Dieter Moebius was one of those things. During my early-eighties obsession with all things Eno, I must have found in a Melbourne record store a second-hand copy of an album called "After The Heat", labelled as being by "Eno  Moebius  Roedelius". Here is a photo of the record. You can see that it has been well worn.

At the time of buying it, I knew nothing about it. I also knew nothing of Moebius or Roedelius. (There was a time when all human knowledge was more than one click away.) Eno's name was enough for me. My early impressions of the record were, therefore, largely of bewilderment. I wouldn't say "disappointment", but as a mere boy I was only looking for concrete evidence of Eno, and that, I thought, was limited to his vocals on the final three songs on the album.

It wasn't until later that I became acquainted with the music of Moebius and Roedelius's earlier groups, Cluster and Harmonia. (I came to them through brief obsessions with Neu and Can, and also, I suppose, through discovering the album "Cluster & Eno" (the one with the cover photo of a microphone out standing in the field -- cue dodgy Dad joke).) Armed with all of this music, I was then able to go back and make a better fist of "After The Heat", which, when all is said and done, stands tall in the catalogues of all musicians involved (including the seemingly ubiquitous Conny Plank, who produced). Also, I was no longer clouding my judgment by trying in vain to find The Essence Of Eno throughout its grooves. I could let the music wash over me, as it was designed to do, and which it does to great effect.

"After The Heat" is, I would say, a fine example of pure collaboration. Sure, you have Eno's voice, which no matter how much you try to disguise it (including, on "Tzima N'Arki", running it backwards -- incidentally, I have struggled for years to figure out what was being sung; I can't keep enough syllables in my head at once: the best I can come up with is that the title might be "economist" backwards, phonetically, maybe). But aside from noting that the first song on side one seems to teeter on the edge of turning into Roxy Music's "The Bogus Man", and recognising Roedelius's typically thoughtful solo piano in a couple of tracks (although even then one of those tracks could just as easily have come from Eno's "Music For Films" album), it is impossible to say who was responsible for what. All three musicians seem to have buried themselves in the music. And it works well because of that. Even though I didn't realise that was what I wanted, it was in fact exactly what I wanted.

Indeed, Moebius (not to be confused, as I was for a while, with the French comic-book auteur of the same name; nor, for the sake of the record, did he invent the mobius strip) has the least recognisable "voice" of the three of them; he may even be one of the least recognisable "famous" musicians that ever existed. There are solo Moebius albums, but none of them is prominent in his discography. What Moebius seemed to thrive on was collaboration. As well as Cluster, Harmonia and Liliental, there are many albums with Moebius's name on them, but I'm not sure that any of them, or indeed any exercise of listening to them all in close succession, would reveal much about what Moebius actually sounded like. This is not a criticism. There are quite a lot of musicians whose names come readily to mind who would be well served by burying their egos, even just a little bit, beneath their music. Perhaps not everybody could do it to the extent that Moebius did (as I said at the outset, these are just my personal impressions), but having a string of great albums with one's own name attached to them must surely be, at least to some extent, its own reward.

Thank you Dieter Moebius, for the music.