Throughout his over 50-year-long career, David Bowie explored many different music genres. Just look at his output in the 1970s. A more folksy sound marked 1970 until his transition to glam rock in 1972 with “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” 

The mid ‘70s would see Bowie reinvent his music to a more soul sound or what he called “Plastic Soul” with 1975’s “Young Americans.” But out of everything Bowie put out in the 1970s, the albums I keep coming back to are what are part of his Berlin Trilogy 

The Berlin Trilogy consists of “Low” and “Heroes,” both released in 1977 and “Lodger” (1979). This trilogy would see Bowie move to West Berlin with Iggy Pop to recover from their drug addiction.

“Low” sees Bowie’s experiment with a new sound, primarily electronic and ambient, which in part can be thanks to Brian Eno playing instrumental on many parts of the album and Tony Visconti producing. Visconti and Eno also appear on the last two albums.

The sound, at times, is minimalistic with no prominent guitar solos. The less there is, the better. The minimalism is apparent in tracks like “Art Decade,” which appears on the second half of “Low.” To me, the second half of “Low” is what makes this album untraditional. The first half is made up of songs that have vocals, whereas the second half is made up entirely of instrumentals with sporadic vocals here and there. 

“Be My Wife” acts like a transition between the two sides because it seems sort of out of place on the album with its use of guitars and a piano. It sounds like something Bowie would have released earlier in his career. “Subterraneans” concludes the album on a somber note, with Bowie’s voice only coming in towards the end to sing, “Share bride failing star/Care-line, care-line,care-line,care-line,care-line/Share bride failing star.”

What makes me come back to “Low” is its otherworldly atmosphere. The hums, beeps and synths make it sound like something out of a science fiction novel.

“Heroes” builds upon the ideas of “Low” but does have a more traditional album structure. The most well known song from this album is the titled track “Heroes.” Fun fact, “Heroes” was the only album in the trilogy that was recorded entirely in Berlin. 

Minimalism is out the door with this album. “Blackout,” which is loud and, at times, has this frantic claustrophobic quality. Bowie sings like he is running out of time; he wants to be done with the song. His vocals are more dramatic on “Heroes.” They don’t fade into the background like on “Low.” Some of my favorite vocal moments can be found in “Sons of the Silent Age” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

As I mentioned earlier “Heroes” does continue on the ideas where “Low” left off. Callbacks to the first album in the trilogy can be heard on the three instrumental songs that happen towards the end of the album, “Sense of Doubt,” “Moss Garden” and “Neukoln.” 

“Lodger” is a complete 180 in terms of an album. It abandons the electronic elements found on the first two albums and goes into a more rock/new wave territory that would become more prevalent in the coming decade.

I will admit “Lodger” is an album I do not come back to often, but when I do listen to it, I always enjoy the songs. The opener “Fantastic Voyage” has this laidback feel to it which is a contrast to the heavier sounding openings of “Low” and “Heroes.” 

“D.J.,” on the surface, is all cheerful sounding, but when you start listening to the lyrics, you hear Bowie commenting on the price of being famous, “I am a D.J., I am what I play/I got believers believing me.” 

“Lodger” has a similar sound to 1980s “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).” Especially on “Repetition,” which I think foreshadowed to the listener what would come in Bowie’s discography. 

The Berlin Trilogy allowed Bowie to explore sounds in a way he never did before and would greatly influence his career in the future.