Hans-Joachim Roedelius is a legendary, pioneering figure in ambient and experimental music. For over 50 years, he has been a prominent visionary figure since his work at the vanguard of ’60s/’70s krautrock movement as part of leading lights Cluster and Harmonia and as a solo composer.
Now aged 76, Roedelius still has an unfailing and insatiable appetite for making oblique and captivating soundcapes. For the past few years Roedelius has been working with esteemed bassist and synth master Stefan Schneider from equally experimental avant leaning post-rock electronica group To Rococo Rot. Their 2011 collaboration Stunden introduced their symbiotic relationship between synthesiser and piano, between electronic beats and graceful musical composition. Roedelius and Schneider’s partnership is rooted in their strong musical relationship and follow up Tiden ventures further into a mesmerising dream like state.
The music here is almost uniformly graceful and sedate. There are no rushes of sound or huge bass pulses. Instead, every note and echoed sound relate beautifully to each other. The album seems to follow on from Stunden’s (the German word for hours) explorations of time and movement. Here, time seems to be slowed down and infinitely drawn out - the album is only 40 minutes long but it feels much longer. Opening track Umstunden carries on these themes; a slow, looping piano figure wallows languorously around some amorphous fluttering natural sounds. It’s all incredibly delicate and soothing, and you lose yourself to such an extent that time feels completely unimportant.
This graceful almost balletic feel permeates throughout the album. Both musicians’ skills are tied together in gentle wonder. Schneider’s piano provides the main focal point while Roedelius soft focus synths and bubbling electronics are a soft hazy presence in the background. The playful skipping beats and ornate piano of Frankly are a good indication of this dynamic.
One of the striking aspects of this album is how the music is so incredibly slight; in a sense it’s completely unmelodic but works very well in the context of a lucid work. On a track like Whose Contract, you can hear each piano note ring out and reverberate in stark isolation. At times, this slightness is almost oppressive – there is nothing to hang on to, nothing to connect with. You have to attempt to form your own connection and your own ideas – that’s part of the wonder of this music.
As the album progresses the pace, tone or pitch rarely rises. There is, though, a wonderful beatific sense of beauty to these pieces of largely ambient atmospheric music, particularly on the serene music box chimes of Hohner Omen. To offset the sedate tranquility there is just the merest hint of an underlying tension in the album’s closing section. The fragmented, cut up percussive sounds of Pedal Piece and Bald sit rather uneasily with a foreboding strident piano while Unsettled Hours is a darker, brooding piece that befits its name.
Tiden is manifestly a work by two supremely gifted musicians who are masters of their craft. Both Roedelius and Schneider have developed their own language and way to communicate with each other through sound. It’s this symbiotic and serene balance that makes listening to Tiden a largely enriching experience.