In a moment of inspiration, that solid chap Mr. Aural Flea saw fit to purchase two tickets to this gig on the offchance I’d be able to make it!
Make it? I moved every commitment aside for this. Cluster, with their roots in the late 60s, defined the roots of everything from experimental ambient to dance, with a mighty dollop of krautrock thrown-in for good measure!
I’d not set foot in Brum Town Hall before, but it’s a cracking venue, all Victorian pomp and splendour sympathetically and expensively restored. Acoustics are good, spacious, but easily filled by relatively modest amp stacks.
First on were a band I was only very vaguely aware of – Einstellung, a Brum-based four piece relentlessly compared to Neu!. They offer-up a kind of ambient drone-metal, heavily guitar-lead, and occasionally pitching and bucking with some ferocity within the confines of their longish set pieces, ultimately yielding a sound that fits within the looser boundaries of Krautrock. These are not wet-behind-the-ears newcomers either, having all served time in other successful bands before. Their particular fusion rocks too – and I have honestly never heard guitar feedback used quite so creatively or effectively as in their set closer. On reflection I would have been pleased if I’d showed-up for this set alone.
Stage set-up for the headline act was surprisingly brief and painless – there’s a rare experience! Bass bins and monitors largely disappared, as did drum set and guitar racks, leaving just a large double bench, a quad of small monitors and some largely invisible tools-of-the trade on the benchtop. Soon after, two older gents wandered nonchlently onto stage as a video loop depicting an even more elderly, and perhaps inebriated gardener pottering in the grounds of an idyllic Umbrian farm house flickered into life above their heads.
All hail Cluster! Dragged kicking and screaming from retirement about 5 years ago, it was truly heartening to see that for talented people with a love for their art, that growing older need not mean growing stale, as we were about to witness…
The set they launched into drew chiefly from their most recent work, and was tightly executed and deeply engaging. Their music is hard to describe, as it never settles into a comfortable groove, but explores a soundscape, and creates a mindspace that is beyond routine experience – as only the best ambient electronic music can. More than this, we witnessed two old friends enjoying themselves, creating and communicating, smiling, exchanging witticisms unheard by the audience, but never losing track of the bigger musical picture for a second.
A single encore reprised their earlier efforts and built upon it, leaving a hall full of enthusiastic and happy people, buoyed up in a way that is hard to define. This was transcendant stuff, appealing to a wide range of ages, and yet as Mr. Flea commented afterwards, it retained a childhood intimacy akin to watching a couple of aged uncles pottering in their garage – undertaking tasks beyond your ken, yet utterly engaging and fulfilling.
Review Paul Jeffery
Photos Katja Ogrin