Cluster @ Farmlab, 22 May 2008

Show at Farmlab.  Lucky Dragons were first, building beautiful interactive music by through the audience's interactive touch, computer as thalamus.

From Lucky Dragon's bio:  "Lucky dragons means any recorded or performed or installed or packaged or shared pieces made by Luke Fischbeck, Sarah Rara, and any sometimes collaborators. They try to do as many different kinds of things as they can, high and low, fast and slow. They would say they are "artists who use music" and if they make performance art it is to alter and append it, but they give respect to history and the people who live there."

Approaches to music like this can be more cerebral than pleasing, but Lucky Dragons filled the air with gorgeous sound.

Farmlab is under a Spring Street overpass, overlooking the railroad tracks, a short jog from my homies in Chinatown. 

But what is Farmlab?  We'll let them describe it:

The team behind the Not A Cornfield project in Downtown Los Angeles has become Farmlab, a short-term multi-disciplinary investigation of land use issues that are related to sustainability, livability, and health.

Whatever it may be, the water fountain, plants growing in cars, "concrete is fluid" sign, location below Spring Street, and interesting lighting were a treat for the eyes and the camera lens.

Professor Cantaloupe of KXLU spins rare grooves between sets.

Another look at Farmlab while Mi Ami played.  I peered over the crowd pulsing to their four-on-the-floor no-wave African disco vibe, expecting the somewhat Ono-esque vocals to be from a Japanese girl.  Was instead surprised to find 'em emanating from a white guy.

Headphones set up for listeners at Farmlab.  Mine had the sweet sound of rainfall on leaves with occasional distant rolling thunder.

Seeing Cluster @ Farmlab left me burning with this question:  why couldn't they be my grandparents?  I was even born in the Fatherland.  It would be so perfect.  And maybe Delia Derbyshire could be my mother, Brian Eno could be my papa...


Due to six years studying at a university, I'm compelled to give a little background information.  It's a sickness, I know.  Cluster is an experimental musical group from Germany, creating music ranging from ambient to progressive rock, and was formed in 1969.  They've collaborated with Brian Eno and Holger Czukay, among many others.

My friend from Santa Cruz called me in 1996.  "You've got to see Cluster.  They're coming to Spaceland.  Go see them. This is the first time they've been to this country. I've convinced the booker of Palookaville (in Santa Cruz) to book them as well.  You don't want to miss this." 

And I didn't.  After all, I liked their music. It was a beautiful, intimate show, with Hans and Dieter facing each other, playing continually evolving textures from keyboards and CDs, occasionally chattering to each other softly as the gorgeous improvisations continued.  The audience at Spaceland was quiet and reverent, many sitting or lying on the floor.  A magical evening.

Could it be this good again, twelve years later?


Hans-Joachim Roedelius.

And yes, Cluster was still magical.  More rhythmic elements, and still gorgeous.


Dieter Moebius

Sonorous electronic improvisations under the stars...or at least, under Spring Street.

I walked up to Hans after their performance.  How can you tell someone how magical their music was without sounding trite?  He was smiling, gracious.  I told him that I had taken photos of them.  He gave me his email, a signed business card with his email!  Later, I asked Dieter and Hans to sign a newer CD of live performances in Berlin.

Cluster were going up to Big Sur the next day to play at the Henry Miller Library with Wooden Shjips.  You have no idea how badly I wanted to skip work, blow off editing The Tibet Connection radio show, and bliss out among the redwoods while listening to these groups.  Why the hell am I so responsible?

Concrete is fluid, and so is the music of Cluster, as they pause here for before easing into a gorgeous encore.

I talked to Professor Cantaloupe from KXLU and Melon Expander, Joseph from Solid Eye, Chris from Nectarphonic, Laura from KCRW after the show.  They all were smiling, high from the performance. Also, I'm mentioning where they do to give 'em props for their own stuff, not to name-drop.

Cluster @ Farmlab, 22 May 2008

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