?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Stretchmarks on a rock cabbage - click opera
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 10:37 am
Stretchmarks on a rock cabbage

Krautrock - the Rebirth of Germany is a BBC4 documentary on the mystical electronic music British rock critics dubbed "Krautrock" (which is a bit like calling Alberto Camerini a "Woprocker"). Directed by Ben Whalley, the film is a companion to the one I linked the other day about UK synthpop, Synth Britannia.



Does anyone else see the influence of Adam Curtis here? The voice-over sounds a bit Curtis-like, and Whalley has a similar approach to selecting and editing clips. Whenever I think of Adam Curtis I think of the artist Luke Fowler's documentaries, which seem to have headed even further out in the same direction. Like Curtis, Fowler selects dramatic, texturally-interesting clips -- glimpses of radical sixties and seventies subcultures. Whalley does the same thing: his very short clip of Kraftwerk dancing, for instance, is masterfully placed as a glimpse that leaves you wanting more.



If documentaries move more in this direction it's not hard to imagine them employing an interesting and successful rule Fowler sets himself to keep his textures consistent, and his subjects consistently mythical: never show people as they look today. Watching these documentaries, it's hard not to be distracted by counting the lines on Iggy Pop's stomach or regretting the fact that a surviving member of Popol Vuh who looks as if he's undergoing chemotherapy is lighting up cigarettes on camera. We could say that all documentaries about cool and charismatic subcultures are doomed to a basically bathetic narrative structure (it's nature's very own bathos, but that shouldn't excuse it) when they balance young, good looking, cool people against the prunes they inevitably become. The viewer is forced into playing a constant game of Spot the Difference, rather than experiencing the full revelation of an aesthetic revolution at its peak. The end result is a sort of temporal embourgeoisement. "Don't worry," this narrative structure seems to say "we all go slack and paunchy in the end. Even the visionaries."



Then again, there is a fascination in discovering that venues which are part of past legend are also part of your regular experience. Before watching this documentary I didn't realise that the Zodiak Arts Club, a Berlin experimental arts centre founded by Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, is what I know today as HAU2, part of the Hebbel-am-Ufer theatre complex in Kreuzberg where we watched the Tokio Shibuya theatre season last month.



There are other niggling critiques you could make of the Krautrock doc. The presence of Iggy Pop and the absence of Eno, for instance, is odd. Julian Cope could usefully have popped up at some point. They could have employed a critic to sift bad records of the period from good. Kraftwerk is arguably over-familiar and part of a different genre.



Then there's the questionable scene-setting at the beginning, where footage of 1968 student disturbances in Berlin is played while the script tells us that pop music in Germany at the time was Schlager, which said nothing about "the reality of what was happening on the streets". If the documentarists are trying to set up a "Punk swept away Prog" sort of scenario, they're barking up the wrong tree. First of all, Schlager is still with us; its audience of working class Germans in kniepes doesn't overlap with the Krautrock audience at all. Secondly, Krautrock has as little relevance to urban political uprisings as Schlager has; it's a music of mystical introspection, for the most part recorded in country barns.



Grousing aside, though, this is a very interesting film, and I'd like to see BBC4 continue to employ Ben Whalley. They should also think about screening Luke Fowler's film about Cornelius Cardew, Pilgrimage from Scattered Points, though, because Fowler shows how a documentary about a visionary artist can, itself, be visionary art. It's a good deal more uplifting than counting Iggy Pop's stretchmarks.

34CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 10:45 am (UTC)

It's funny. You've turned me onto so many good things (thanks for the Italian electro-pop fiend the other day) but I did manage to stumble on this one and the British Electronic documentary all on my own!
I feel like I'm ready to fly the coop.


ReplyThread
guessbook.wordpress.com
guessbook.wordpress.com
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 12:43 pm (UTC)
stretchmarks

reminded me of Tim Etchell's incredible post about I.P.

"...Or you're looking at an exuberant grotesque, part-clown part-reptile - death-denying or death taunting and in any case, somehow in a state of avoidance concerning the fact that this body is 60, the face like an astonished and jubilant skull that has just watched its own reconstruction thru surgery..."

http://www.timetchells.com/notebook/june-2007/boundless/


ReplyThread
vertigoranger
vertigoranger
VERTIGORANGER.REKAY
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 12:54 pm (UTC)

I saw this a few weeks ago and thought it was good.

I was once interviewed for a work experience with the Panorama documentary unit. Curtis's name didn't carry a lot of currency in the interview, which doesn't come as a surprise because Panorama blows.

I shall re-peruse it. I do love the krautrock.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)

Kniepes = Kneipen (bars)?




ReplyThread
bluesman
bluesman
Two-Dog
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)

Thank you for this, Mr C. Superficial but thoroughly enjoyable.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
Sour krauts

I can't wait to watch this (a soon as I'm through with the synthpop doc). I really hope to see Florian Fricke; "Aguirre" in particular has has always had the most profound effect on me. My very favorite movie! Herzog's combination of visuals and music moves me beyond words. Gosh, that sounds dumb--but as I said, I'm beyond words.

By the way, all the Germans I know (relatives and friends) call themselves "krauts" with great ironic affection, which I guess at least deflects British disdain.

Z.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC)

You seem to have focused on the editing techniques of the film and completely bypassed the focal point. The music, half a life lived again. How long have you been trying to write a Krautrock album now?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)

The thought that I've been trying to write a Krautrock album has seriously never crossed my mind. Hanns Eisler songs on a laptop, yes.


ReplyThread Parent
count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
art wave




ReplyThread
count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
Re: art wave


ReplyThread Parent
thomascott
thomascott
Thomas Scott
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)

I watched this on BBC 4, and yes, it is indeed a fine documentary.
Eno does not crop up as a talking head, but he is referred to by Cluster, with (if I remember correctly) Moebius at one point inferring that Eno appropriated their ideas and did not make good on expressed intentions regarding proposed recording projects.
It is curious that Cope also fail to appear as a commentator, he was a huge champion of Krautrock at a point when the movement (not that it was ever a movement in any real sense) was still largely overlooked in the UK.
Apropos of sifting good records from bad, what are your personal favourite Krautrock albums/artists Momus?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 02:07 am (UTC)

I just had a couple of Tangerine Dream records and some Cluster. Got slightly into Can much later, in the 90s. Kraftwerk I was buying from 1975, but I consider that pop. So I'd probably have to cite After The Heat as my single favourite Krautrock album, but it's not rock and Kraut is a horrible term.


ReplyThread Parent Expand


(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
bimmelbimmel
bimmelbimmel
bimmelbimmel
Sat, Nov. 21st, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC)
recommended!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6491hFiWw4


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
Re: recommended!

Roland S. Howard still looking pretty good -- no stretch marks on him!


ReplyThread Parent Expand

Re: recommended! - (Anonymous) Expand

(Anonymous)
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)

I found the bitterness of some of these musicians towards eno/bowie to be a bit petty.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 05:38 am (UTC)
im the operator with my pocket calculator

the nazis would not have objected to half of this music, especially kraftwerk


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 08:26 am (UTC)
Re: im the operator with my pocket calculator

The Nazis didn't object to cheese, either. Does this mean we shoudln't eat cheese?


ReplyThread Parent Expand




Vinyl Solution - (Anonymous) Expand






(Anonymous)
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC)

Nick - come home! - you're out of the loop (I'm sure Berlin is lovely but) ... this documentary was on weeks ago on the Beeb and all us pop/art kids have discussed and assimilated it. Britain is absolutely dire at the moment, though you get the feeling something just has to happen. The weather's terrible at the moment - stayed in last night watched - on BBC 2 (i.e. mainstream TV) : Matt Frei's Berlin - the second of a three part documentary ... brilliant - this was followed by Waldemar Januszczak's programme on beauty in modern art ... wonderful + positive ... rounded off the evening with Andrew Graham Dixon's piece on Constructivism - a nice bit of exuberant criticism.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)

You're telling me to come home (from Warsaw, as it happens, today) so that I can sit there watching UK terrestrial TV?


ReplyThread Parent Expand

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
rinusvanalebeek
rinusvanalebeek
rinusvanalebeek
Sun, Nov. 22nd, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
zuurkool met vette jus

krautrock, an inspiration to young americans..you can taste it live tomorrow, monday 23/11 at staalplaat in Berlin, read more about it here http://staalplaat.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/23-november-no-emeralds-but-other-jewels-shining-like-kraut/


ReplyThread