Published Feb 22, 2019Michael Rother stands as a true Krautrock legend, and for good reason. Not only was he in an early incarnation of Kraftwerk, but the German musician went on to lead such genre giants as Neu!, with Klaus Dinger, and Harmonia, alongside Cluster's Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, with the latter trio at one point even making a collaborative album with ambient legend Brian Eno. On top of those accomplishments, Rother also kicked off a solo career in the late '70s — a period now being rightly celebrated with the new box set, Solo.
The expansive set includes Rother's first four solo albums: 1977's Flammende Herzen, 1978's Sterntaler, 1979's Katzenmusik and 1982's Fernwärme. And while the now 68-year-old Rother went on to craft solo efforts after these, this initial string of solo albums remain his most loved, best highlighting the soaring guitar skills and masterful melodic sense he brought to his previous collaborative projects.
For the unfamiliar, Rother, in many ways, is the most emotive player in the Krautrock universe, with his instrumental earwormers always searching out an impassioned response from the listener. Primarily, this comes via Rother's guitar — the instrument at the centre of his work.
Ever-sky-reaching, Rother's guitarwork twists, turns and locks on to some of the most beautiful looping patterns ever recorded. It's no surprise then that it's a style that's gone on to influence countless players over the years, especially in the world of post-rock, and in more stadium-minded fare. In the mid-2000s, Rother famously played live with admirers Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as with At the Drive-In/Mars Volta's Omar-Rodriguez Lopez and Sonic Youth's Steve Shelly, respectively. As Rother told Exclaim! back in 2009, he even once almost started a supergroup with John Frusciante, Flea, Josh Klinghoffer and the late Benjamin Curtis (of School of Seven Bells).
But Rother didn't create this lasting legacy purely on his own — even in his solo work. In addition to employing the talents of Krautrock studio legend Conny Plank on his early solo albums, Rother traded Neu! drummer Klaus Dinger for famed Can player Jaki Liebezeit, whose robo-like motorik drum patterns can be heard on the majority of the Solo material. And in between, Rother employed a heavy use of dreamy kosmische synth, often adding an important layer to his epic-minded sonics. Packaged together, you can hear how Rother experimented and expanded on this basic formula through his progressive solo albums, but at their core, his focus remained unfazed — or at least in these initial solo offerings.
As for the specific contents of the box, Solo presents Flammende Herzen, Sterntaler, Katzenmusik and Fernwärme in their entirety, though refrains from adding any bonus material to the albums. For extra incentive, however, the set does package up some previously unreleased works, including Rother's more recent scores to the films Die Raeuber and Houston. If you spring for the vinyl edition, you will also get an added disc of remixes and live tracks. There's also a beautifully assembled book with liner notes from John Foxx, Jim O'Rourke and more, in addition to a series of photographs from throughout Rother's career.
For those who have already dived headfirst into the Rother universe, Solo does not bring a lot new to the table. But for the unfamiliar, the box set serves as a stunning entry point into one of the world's most important Krautrock figures. (Groenland)