Moebius fur Metropolis is the posthumous LP release from the late Dieter Moebius who died in 2015. Both a founder member of Kluster (with Conrad Schnitzer and Hans-Joachim Roedelius) and Harmonia (with Michael Rother and again Roedelius), Moebius was one of the most important protagonists of avant-garde electronic music in Germany.
As suggested by the title, Musik für Metropolis is an accompaniment to Fritz Lang’s 1927 expressionist science-fiction drama film, which depicted a futuristic, dystopian world and was a landmark that was way ahead of its time. A continuous source of inspiration to present day filmmakers, musicians, writers and architects alike, ‘Metropolis’ was famously soundtracked by Giorgio Morodor in 1984 and featured most prominently Freddie Mercury. Cut to 2012 and Dieter Moebius was invited to perform music to this legendary silent film. It was his plan to create an album-length version of this music for release. Unfortunately, the musician passed away on July 20, 2015 and was not able to complete the project. However, with the help and support of his widow Irene and two longtime musical partners, Tim Story and Jon Leidecker, the Berlin musician Jonas Förster finished the remaining work and completed the production. Hence this four track album serves as a bittersweet taste of what could have been achieved if fully recognised.
‘Schicht’ starts this LP and immediately you get the sense of the industrial and mechanical, just like the film. The sounds created creak and groan, and this gives the sound a very dense feel. It is slow and measured, again, just like the film. Halfway through the track we get some glitch introduced along with very quiet and minimalist electronica. The creaking continues and you suddenly realise that it may be a sample of an old dial up modem connecting to the internet. Combined with the added sounds of clocks ticking, this is a wonderfully atmospheric start.
‘Moloch’ is again slow starting, but gradually builds and builds with its samples and effects. Again it is dense, but this time almost organic. There are sounds created that I swear reminded me of the gibbering noises made by Rubber Johnny in Aphex Twin and Chris Cunningham’s infamous collaboration. They sound sentient, but not human, and this just adds to the bleakness of the project. ‘Metropolis’ is famous for representing a nightmarish dystopian society and the sounds that Moebius makes fit this just perfectly.
Third track ‘Tiefenbahnen’ has a more 1960’s space-age feel to it with its chimes and analog synth sounds. Combined with sounds like insects crawling, listening to this in the dark with headphones on is deeply unsettling as they seem to be crawling in space between your skull and brain. As the track progresses, we get for the first time something approaching a beat. It’s slow and industrial and has a steampunk feel to it. Again another influence from ‘Metropolis‘!
Fourth and final track ‘Mittler’ is another slower affair and has more chime like sounds, scratching and occasional blasts of what sound like metallic horns. It is possibly the soundtrack to a more dramatic part of the film and as such is a fitting end to the piece.
Whilst he was still alive and working on this, Moebius produced pre-arranged tracks and samples to be treated with effects and combined during live improvisation according to the different settings of the film. This short four track LP highlights the brilliant effect that this way of working had on the music created. It is a cruelly short, but fascinating piece of a jigsaw that was never completed, but beautifully captures the essence of what the artist was aiming for. It’s atmospheric, big in scope and at times unsettling, but overall it is a lovely document that deserves your attention.
Music für Metropolis is released on 6th January 2017 through Bureau B.