Mojo SEPTEMBER 2007 - by Jim Irvin


Arriving at the future before they've even built the vehicles to take you there.

"All good ghosts were heading for your balcony one evening, driven by an unknown power..." This line, uttered five minutes into Hollywood Symphony, the long final cut on Holger Czukay's amazing 1979 solo album, Movies, nicely summarises the mood of this beautiful, unique record, a mosaic of found sounds, played fragments and treated instruments, combined to pull the listener into a reverie about a modern world bombarded by media and talking to itself enthusiastically. A pioneering production in its time, predating Eno and David Byrne's similarly ethno-curious My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, Movies stills sounds incredibly potent and current, though made before the advent of samplers and digital recording; it was hewn from weeks of painstaking editing which few artists would dream of undertaking today. Czukay, the founder of Can, was used to managing a complex weave of disparate influences, but is particularly expert here, and fortunate with his findings, especially on Persian Love, with its heart-stopping love duet discovered on Radio Tehran. This world-ambient-groove thing, prescient enough in 1979, was actually a technique he'd used ten years earlier in Boat Woman Song from an album called Canaxis, and possibly borrowed from Stockhausen - under whom he studied - who often blended foreign radio broadcasts into his work.

The late critic Ian MacDonald once rounded on Can when their albums were reissued in the '90s, deciding that improvisation and repetition were appealing only to younger ears: "Gentle reader, this is boring". Movies mutates too quickly to bore, but Czukay does understand how to make a repetitive piece breathe. For proof hear Clash, a double live set from 1997 recorded with mysterious collaborator Dr Walker, basically a series of lengthy synth-driven rumbles and drifts that somehow never becomes tedious.

One could say the same for electro-pioneer Klaus Schulze on a good day. You'll never hear the milkman whistling one of his tunes, but he's done a lovely line in protean mood-changers since 1972. His output is vast, dozens of albums, many of them multiple discs. I couldn't afford to listen to 1980's Live all the way through, or there'd have been no column this month, but the eighty-seven hours I managed passed very pleasantly. Less engaging, strangely, are Schulze's excursions into shorter forms under the pseudonym Richard Wahnfried. 1996's Trance Appeal sounds a little by-the-yard to me, but I'm sure some electro-spod somewhere considers it the soundtrack to the second coming.