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Holger Czukay and the new Millenium
B2 Club 
By Neil McGowan
"Yeah, but they don't listen to the music or the words - they're thinkin' "What's his socks? What's his shirt? What's he going do next?"" - Malcolm McLaren

It was probably a mistake for B2 to list this as a concert – Holger Czukay is probably more in the genre of “performance artist”. You might not know him, but you know his character… the potty professor, the clown who wants to play Beethoven, Pierrot Lunaire? Or more recently, the deluded musical ambitions of John Shuttleworth?

Czukay’s “act” involves him appearing as a kind of demented Phantom Of The Opera, who concocts musical soundtracks in a strange laboratory of electronic instruments, devices and unusual props. His long greying locks (he’s now in his mid-60’s) fly to and fro, sweat pours from his brow as he leaps from his mixer-desk like Igor in Frankenstein’s lab – tweaking a dial, tuning something in, staring at the mixer-desk incredulously, dancing with delight at the results. From time to time he simulates playing, or actually bangs-out a few notes on various musical instruments – a keyboard, an electric guitar, or an exceedingly battered French Horn. He goes through the motions of “sampling” these sounds, although what you actually hear does not include them. It’s much more to do with theatre, and less with music. In fact the music coming through the sound-system is mostly being mixed by the DJ at the desk behind him. Exactly what role Czukay has played in assembling the soundtrack that’s finally heard in the performance isn’t clear.

The influence of Karl-Heinz Stockhausen (with whom Czukay has worked) is clearly audible – there are hints of both “Metamorphosen” and “Hymnen” in the music, although laid over a rocky disco beat. But the personage whom Czukay plays seems to owe something more to quirky pranksters like H.K.Gruber? In fact, the bizarre lab setting and occasional dark gothic mumblings into the microphone produced a strong echo of Gruber’s “Frankenstein!”

What the audience at B2 made of this strange spectacle was not entirely clear – although he certainly managed to clear the floor quite quickly, as a stream of people began leaving after the first ten minutes. The problem, really, is… we have all seen all this so many times before. It’s a staple item on kid’s TV – the old guy who makes a fool of himself doing kid’s stuff. Once it became apparent that the act is just Czukay playing with electronic equipment and getting more and more excited as the sound grows and expands…. and that nothing more happens than that… a somewhat restive crowd began to make up its own mind. If the show hadn’t started nearly 1.5 hours late, Czukay may have found them in a better mood? As it was, the build-up provided by the DJ’s sound-system had already worn thin on those waiting, and instead of happily dancing etc, many people were already sitting on the floor out of boredom before the show even began.

Full marks to B2 for bringing unusual events like this to Moscow, though. It would be interesting to speculate how well the audience would have received the same show if the performer had been Russian? Somehow a foreigner is able to get away with re-hashing old hat on stage in Moscow more easily than a Russian might?

15.05.03
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