Holger Czukay – Movies (1979): Review

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Produced by Holger Czukay
Label – Electrola

When Krautrock visionaries Can split in 1978, bass player and sonic sorcerer Holger Czukay retired to his small Cologne studio and began to collect snippets of sounds, both melodic and narrative from radio and television. His intention was to create patch worked film scores, initially for his own (and close friends) amusement. “Movies”, his solo debut collection is the spontaneous and logical extension of these experiments. Applying audio samples (long before sampling had become commonplace) he intricately pastes random noises to backing tracks that are as bizarre as one would expect, given that Czukay’s mentor and trainer was the avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. He was taught that traditional compositional rules are there to be broken and that creative success should be based on unstructured instinct. Naturally, given the source material and the inspiration, “Movies” sounds very much like a soundtrack album. Indeed in the sleeve notes Czukay reveals that he dreamed of fusing film music and radio transmissions in to an imagined world “as if they would have belonged together from the very beginning”.

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Mainly, a distant relative to prog rock, the layers of sound are washed with waves of synthetic keyboards, gentle percussion provided by Kwaku Baah and Jaki Liebezeit, and a distinctive prismatic guitar sound that tinkles in and out. Czukay confessed that he was limited by instrumental ability, so he performed each part slowly, and then sped up the tapes to provide an ornate delicacy that sounds genuinely original. As expected, Czukay bewilders the listener from the outset with the camp funk of “Cool In The Pool”. It’s playful, sampled horns parping, an over egged English accent; it’s the closest he’s got to a potential commercial hit. Two songs are over the ten minute mark, and yet both retain their level of intrigue, particularly the mildly haunting “Hollywood Symphony”. “Persian Love” combines an African inspired instrumental approach with recorded middle eastern vocals that are elaborately combined for a magical creative collision.

A painstakingly produced sensory representation of abstract creations that could have only been assembled by the equivalent of an artist who has more colors on his palette than any one else. Czukay would frown at the thought of “Movies” being considered as the best record of the year. He wouldn’t consider the competition as necessary or productive. The importance is that the album exists, and requires your attention.

8/10

Track Rating
1 – Cool In The Pool (6)
2 – Oh Lord, Give Me More Money (8)
3 – Persian Love (9)
4 – Hollywood Symphony (8)

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