INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Uncut APRIL 2018 - by Louis Pattison
HOLGER CZUKAY: CINEMA
Five discs collect the extra Canworks from Krautrock's high priest of mischief
Can as a live entity were already a finished concern when Holger Czukay passed away at his studio near Cologne in the September of last year. Instead, the colourful obituaries that followed were a chance to reflect on the life and work of the man outside the confines of the group he co-founded. Born in the Free City Of Danzig - later Gdansk, Poland - in 1938, Czukay's family fled west as refugees during the war, settling in Berlin. Later he studied under Stockhausen, and became fascinated by shortwave radio, which he would sample and use as found sound, a technique he called "radio painting". As well as a technician and a limber, intuitive bass player, Czukay was also a surrealist, with a quick humour and a Dalíesque demeanour. While this was often at least partly subsumed within Can's powerful group dynamic, playing solo, he often let it all hangout.
Chronologically sequenced, Cinema spans Czukay's career outside of Can, taking in solo work and a wealth of collaborations. It begins in the 1960s with spacy ethnographic experiments from Czukay and Rolf Dammers' Technical Space Composers Crew and a previously unheard track, Konfigurationen, from Czukay's early jazz ensemble Holger Schüring Quintett. The collection really hits its stride with Ho Renomo from Cluster and Brian Eno's collaborative album Cluster & Eno that features Czukay's gently eddying basslines, plus a number of tracks from his 1979 solo album Movies, which showed off a taste for frisky disco (Cool In The Pool) and ethnographic play (Persian Love, which laces the voices of Middle Eastern singers over lolloping reggae).
Post-Can,Czukay's story is one of new collaborations and new configurations. Les Vampyrettes, his short-lived duo project with leading Krautrock producer Conny Plank, explores spacious dub soundscaping and horror movie atmospherics. Four tracks from Full Circle, a collaboration with Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit and Jah Wobble,offer up brooding, thuggish grooves, with Wobble on bass and vocals and Czukay tinkering with tapes and adding billowing French horn. A long-lost collaboration with Stockhausen, Breath Taking, is among the collection's unheard material, while on the fifth disc we hear music Czukay made with his wife Ursula Schüring, AKA U-She.Their La Premiere imagines the mystic vibes of Can's Ege Bamyasi with a smoky-voiced chanteuse on the mic.
Czukay was so prolific that even Cinema can't quite contain him. There is nothing present from Czukay's collaborations with David Sylvian, nor anything from Snake Charmer, his 1983 disco link-up with Jah Wobble and The Edge. Elsewhere, quirky singalongs like Hit Hit Flop Flop can feel hit an miss. But in its puckish humour and boundless experimentation, Cinema does feel like a complete portrait of one of the twentieth century's true originals, a collection of music that feels rich with creative possibilities. The set is completed by a hefty photo book and a DVD featuring Czukay's film Krieg Der Töne, while the vinyl edition adds a 7-inch "vinyl video" containing the music video for Cool In The Pool.