labelled as “Godfather of ambient” Michael Rother in the
course of his musical career has experienced – and indeed he
survived – quite a few attempts to quote him as
“godparent” to numerous styles of modern electronic music.
Nevertheless, musicians and critics from the U.K. and U.S. alike agree
that Rother has developed a distinctive, by all means inimitable
musical language of his very own.
“Multi-instrumentalist Michael Rother’s closest counterpart is perhaps Mike Oldfield, but the German guitar and synth wizard’s overall output has been far more satisfying.” That's how Paul O’Brien, contributor to “The Rough Guide to Rock” (U.K., 1996), successfully pins down Rother’s 20-years-plus-spanning body of solo-work. Well, almost...
Writing about Michael Rother in past tense misses the point for several reasons. Since being a member of Kraftwerk in 1971 and acting as founder/mastermind of NEU! (1972 - ‘75) and Harmonia (1973 - ‘76) – both seventies’ bands lauded by David Bowie, Brian Eno, OMD, Stereolab, and Autechre as crucial for their own musical growth -, trance/ambient pioneer Michael Rother has always kept breaking new ground.
So far Rother’s output has sold by a good 1 million units (his ‘77 solo debut “Flammende Herzen” even inspired German filmmaker Walter Bockmayer’s cult-movie of the same name) and is echoed in the late-nineties’ works of post-techno electronic artists such as Underworld and The Chemical Brothers.
Notwithstanding his ever-growing international reputation, after his critically acclaimed album “Traumreisen” (1987) Rother took some time out. To his devoted followers around the globe, those years meant a long time of waiting for a new release. Not that Rother had given up making music. Far from even thinking about calling it a day he went on to produce new music in his home-studios in Hamburg and the Weserbergland. And in 1993, after years of being under contract to major record-companies, Rother set up his own label Random Records.
Random’s first offering couldn’t have been more impressive. Following 1993’s hit-compilation “Radio (Singles 1977 - 93)” which came enhanced by 6 new tracks, autumn 1993 to spring ‘94 saw the first-time-on-CD-release of Rother’s complete catalogue: 7 compact discs, each one containing several bonus-tracks. The new pieces and remixed classics gave proof to Rother’s enduring musical creativity.
But it was not before 1996 when at last a brand-new Michael Rother album hit the streets. On “Esperanza” all of Rother’s musical strengths were combined: those magic trance-beats and romantic yet “no cliché” melodies; a perfect combination of synthesized/sampled sounds and so-called “natural” musical instruments; those minimal loops, always feeling organic and therefore sounding like everything was played in real-time.
Not by accident does Rother’s label Random Records bear its name. In 1993, talking to a German journalist, Rother confessed: “In my music, I always like to work at random. The most beautiful results sometimes come from making mistakes.” But it’s surely no mistake or kind of a random event that Michael Rother, in 1999, has chosen to distribute his Michael Rother-Edition 2000 in a joint-venture between Random Records and BSC Music.
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