First Encounter Tour 1996
Double CD document of Cluster's exhaustive coast to coast USA tour.
Across their 15-CD discography Cluster maintained a consistently high standard despite relying on a largely improvisational muse. If just one album can be said to have fallen below par it would be this one. Moebius and Roedelius deserve credit for sticking to improv and resisting the temptation on their first ever USA tour to cash in by rolling out Zuckerzeit and other past glories. Yet these aimless and unfocussed ambient soundscapes are surely the nadir of their whole career. We hear snatches of the same pre-prepared tapes and sound samples of their recent (and far superior) Japan tour - the duo were reshuffling the same pack of cards - now familiar chance operations but this time apropos of nothing in particular. Tonal watercolours and half-hearted beat that flicker with promise but don't realise their potential. An overlong tour seems to have worn the duo out. "Don't ride the horse until it breaks it's legs" said Roedelius of his decision to wind Cluster down at the end of the tour. If nothing else you can say Live USA 1996 offers testament to the face the Cluster's off-the-cuff brand of electronica is harder to pull off than you'd think.
Source: Stephen Iliffe