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Holger Czukay - On The Way To The Peak Of Normal CD (album) cover


Holger Czukay



3.92 | 36 ratings

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4 stars On The Way To The Peak Of Normal was Holger Czukay's second post-Can solo album, and saw him further developing some of the musical ideas he'd explored on 'Movies', plus showing some other facets of his musical character. It's a slightly uneven album, but is engaging, enjoyable and remarkably accessible for a piece of supposedly 'difficult' experimental music.

The first two tracks took up side 1 of the original vinyl release, and can really be considered as one continuous piece of music with Fragrance acting as a coda to Ode to Perfume. This first half of the album is played entirely by Czukay, except for Jaki Liebezeit's trademark metronomic drumming, and in many ways it's a revelation. This is when the album most obviously picks up where 'Movies' let off, but the snippets of TV and radio are largely absent, barring a brief vocal sample in the first couple of minutes. Instead, Czukay lays down some surprisingly accomplished guitar over the solid rhythmic backing - the first time I heard it I assumed that Michael Karoli was the guitarist. Later in the piece there are interjections on organ and some decidedly non-virtuoso French horn, before the soaring guitar returns to bring the whole thing to a conclusion. Fragrance picks the theme back up and works in some vocoder to interesting effect. The whole thing has a slightly funky motorik feel, and makes an excellent soundtrack for a workout (Czukay himself recommended listening to it on headphones while roller skating!).

The second half of the album is a more diverse selection of ideas. The title track was recorded with members of S.Y.P.H., and is an atmospheric piece with a drum machine beat and fragments of radio interference fleshing out the minimal improvisation. Witches Multiplication Table is a cousin to some of Can's Ethnological Forgery Series, another atmospheric piece which contains some rather irritating vocal interjections and which falls a bit flat as a result. Two Bass Shuffle is exactly what it says it is, and also features Czukay drumming. Like the previous track it has something of a novelty feel, but it also has some genuine musical content and at just over two minutes it doesn't hang around after it's made its point. The album closes with the dark, mysterious Hiss 'n' Listen, featuring Jah Wobble of PIL fame on bass and a genuinely effective whispered vocals by Czukay.

The first half of this album is an absolute 5 star masterpiece, and may well be the pinnacle of Czukay's post Can career. The patchiness of the second half of the album brings the overall rating down, but not all experiments succeed and even Czukay's lesser moments are worth listening to.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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