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The sixth full-length by Qluster finds the trio of Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Onnen Bock, and Armin Metz creating their most sparse, tuneful material to date, with Roedelius' piano melodies taking center stage. Based on extended improvisational sessions, much of the album was recorded in a church, and it maintains a somber, meditative, even sacred quality. This isn't to say that there isn't a sense of playfulness to it, but it's not the same sort of hazy, ethereal shuffle as mid-'70s Cluster albums like Zuckerzeit (although the brief "Zweites Kapitel" sneaks in a faint echo of that album's motorik drum-machine pulsations). Rather, winsome melodies will peek out of the calm synth backdrop during pieces like "Verweile Doch," taking their time to develop without disturbing anything. The album generally maintains a feeling of being within a spacious yet contained setting, but occasionally Qluster seem to venture out into the night air with longer, more vaporous tracks like "Von Weiter Ferne Ganz Nah." Other tunes seem to resemble music boxes suspended in some sort of fog, particularly the delicate "Glasperlenspiel." Only a few moments point to the trio's dark side, such as the eerie buzzing sounds drifting in the background of "Das Seltsame Tier Aus dem Norden." The album's sly highlight "Auf der Lichtung" combines all of its best elements into one package, bathing an abstract, softly tumbling melody with just enough delay effects to give it an air of mystique, and letting the bass synths grow and become richer. Even at its strangest, Echtzeit still feels thoroughly calm and relaxed, as the trio is more than comfortable with venturing into uncharted territory.

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