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country of origin:
New age, new acoustic, world music, ethno-ambient
essential releases:
Celebration (1976, Kuckuck)
Haleakala (1978, Kuckuck)
Ecstasy (1979, Kuckuck)
Cicada (1980, Kuckuck)
Silence Is The Answer (1982, Kuckuck)
Nirvana Road (1984, Kuckuck)
San (1985, Kuckuck)
Call Of The Unknown: 1972-86 (Kuckuck)
Land Of Ecstasy (1988, Kuckuck)


Reviewed by Mike G


Founder of the Celestial Harmonies label Ekhart Rahn once told me a story about Hari Deuter's music that captures vividly what makes it so special. It was the mid-1970's and the well-travelled Rahn was back in the USA catching up with his friend, the jazz saxophone legend Ornette Coleman. He handed a copy of the Deuter's current album Celebration to Coleman, telling him: "This is our biggest selling artist. Tell me what you think". When they met again, Rahn asked Coleman for his opinion. "Of course he sells", said Coleman. "He captured light in his music".

Light, you see, is what Deuter's music has in glorious abundance. Even more remarkable is that on his best albums this glowing optimism doesn't become sentimental. Thanks to the music's cosmic undercurrent and his tremendous command of melody he has always been popular in new age circles, but during his peak years he rarely settled into new age complacency.

By the mid 1970's Deuter was fully formed as a composer, having jettisoned the rougher edges and rather derivative prog and Krautrock elements of his first few albums. The albums listed above date mostly from his heyday spanning 1976 to the late 1980's and appear on Celestial Harmonies sub-label Kuckuck. During this period he spent much of his time in Poona, India as a student of controversial guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The inspiration flowed and some truly great music was born.

All these albums reflect his deep interest in traditional and ethnic music, yet he seamlessly absorbs his influences into an enchanting, distinctive modern sound easily accessible to Western ears. His use of Eastern elements, especially, is refreshingly free of cliches. His favourite instruments are recorder/flute, acoustic guitar, synthesisers and bells. His range stretches from bright, vigorous and highly melodic dances to spacious reflections based on beautiful, seductive drones from organ and synth. Call Of The Unknown is a decent collection spanning most of his career. Ecstasy would serve as a good place to start for newcomers who like folksy guitar melodies and intoxicating keyboard drones. The double CD Silence Is The Answer (avoid the single CD version) demonstrates his entire range, while the sublime San is the best example of his gift for transforming electronics into sounds that are organic, warm and alive. The quasi folk-pop of Land Of Enchantment marks the end of Deuter's most creatively fertile period.

After the 80's he left the Celestial Harmonies fold and signed with German new age label New Earth. The label ramped up the "healing and massage" marketing pitch and - not too surprisingly - complacency soon overtook Deuter's music. Most of his albums from the 1990's and 2000's are generally far less inspired than his previous work. Function eclipses content, overt spirituality eclipses substance, and the music's intrinsic quality is left wanting. It's well played and superficially pretty but essentially bland; earwash for an undiscriminating audience.



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