Compiling tracks from his first seven albums (1977-1993), Chronicles, Vol. 1 offers an overview of Michael Rother's work following his time with Neu! and Harmonia. Neu! had a famously split personality, combining seamless mesmeric grooves and jarring fragmentation, tranquil ambience and industrial menace. Rother was always more readily associated with the melodic, understated part of that equation, enveloping Klaus Dinger's metronomic drumming with layers of processed guitar-minimalism and exploring proto-ambient atmospherics (something he pursued with Harmonia). The material collected here documents Rother's continued exploration of Neu!'s quieter, more tuneful orientation, further developing the pioneering hybrid of rock and electronics initiated with Dinger. With textured melodic lines and spare, rigid beats that coalesce into incrementally changing patterns, several tracks re-create Neu!'s trademark motorik pulse. "Sonnenrad" (from Sternthaler), for instance, wouldn't sound out of place on Neu! 75, its bright, warm groove looking forward to synth pop bands like OMD. Similarly, "Silberstreif" (from Fernwarme) encapsulates the signature characteristics of Rother's guitar work, epitomizing his distinctive blending of expressiveness with absolute minimalist precision, simplicity and control. The melancholy, folk-nuanced title track of Flammende Herzen underscores his ability to imbue the sparsest sounds with emotional resonance. Elsewhere, Rother de-emphasizes the precise motorik drive and takes a more expansive approach, painting in broader strokes, especially on the droning "Pulsar" (from Lust) and "Fernwärme," both of which have a spacier, more hypnotic feel. So much synth-enhanced rock recorded in the mid-'80s has aged badly, but the trance-inducing epic "Tiefenschärfe" (from Suessherz und Tiefenschärfe) is a refreshing exception; with its combination of repetition and gradual variation, samples and unobtrusive beats, this number anticipates subsequent trends in dance music. While Chronicles, Vol. 1 doesn't offer as extensive a selection as the 1993 compilation Radio: Musick von Michael Rother, it nonetheless provides a good introduction to Rother's subtly innovative work.
AllMusic Review by Wilson Neate