Ether 2005: Michael Rother and Dieter Moebius/Githead/They Came From the Stars, I Saw Them

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London - 14 March 2005

"Steam-powered electronica: pure nirvana"

[They Came From the Stars, I Saw Them]They Came From the Stars, I Saw Them

They came, and I saw them dressed head to toe in white flowing robes, and their leader said: "We deny your reality"... hmm. The synth player with his daft white plastic goggles looked like Nathan Barley... hmm. I wondered, had we made a mistake arriving early to catch the support acts? Despite all of this, and the seriously naff dance moves, the 60s,70s, 80s, dubby, funky, disco, Scooby Doo space trip was daffy but, like its cartoon duck namesake, irrepressibly affecting too. Only the bass made me feel unwell - or was that simply the return of the pizza I ate earlier?


Project brainchild of ex-Wire man Colin Newman, Githead also includes Robin Rimbaud (of Scanner fame), Malka Spigel on bass and a drummer. There was lots of fast strumming by Rimbaud and it appeared as if he'd been practising his 'rock god' guitar poses at home in front of a large mirror for months. Not that his simplistic if fast strumming warranted such stances. Hell, the kid was probably just having some fun and I'm not gonna take that away from him. But former Wire member Colin Newman is old enough to know better.

It was all very post-punk/new wave/early Wire-ish but more like a poor imitation of all those good things instead of the genuine article itself. What were we supposed to be getting from this? More importantly, what was the point of such a project? This just felt like an exercise in self-preservation. Indulgent and dull. It felt like the audio equivalent of trying to teach an old dog new tricks. And that old dog just couldn't be arsed. The particularly cheap-sounding drum kit was something of an anachronism is such prestigious surroundings, but typical of Githead.

Michael Rother and Dieter Moebius

[Dieter Moebius and Michael Rother]Projections of bright green blades of grass - how cool! Some folk are good enough that they don't need distracting MTV attention span lightning edited visuals to supplement a diet of meagre music. Rother and Moebius are two such talented folk. There are frequently more compelling moments of inspiration in a randomly selected ten second excerpt from one of their instrumental pieces than can be found in an entire Virgin Megastore. Developed over the years, this steam-powered electronica varies from relaxing, trippy, ambient moments, right over to full-on metronomic motorik beats and bleeps. For me at least, the latter a source of pure nirvana. Wherever we were in the musical spectrum, whether the guitars or electronics led the way, this was always beautiful. Just a lot more of each would be better, for what Rother and Moebius deliver live are often short extracts. Sometimes, too short to really get into. More of the same in future please!

Thinking back to times past this was pretty laid back, fun and playful in comparison. Indeed, Rother frequently had a wry smile of his face, but despite his handsome features, he looked more like a slightly sinister Jürgen Prochnow than a benevolent musician. At their best, there's nothing to touch these two guys when they're rocking with their analogue beats and bleeps. Given their live work rate in recent years, its hard to believe that Rother and Moebius's formal partnership, as Harmonia, lasted just three years in the mid 1970s and only produced two albums. Fingers crossed they see fit to release more of this wonderful music before too long. Until they do, they remain an essential live experience whenever they visit my (or your) neighbourhood.

Rob Dyer