Retro Video Club, Hamburg
Retro Video Club Collection
Retro Video Club
by Fred Roberts
Contributing Music Editor
Today Youtube is filled with video sessions of high definition digital pristine perfection. They are beautiful documents of culture, featuring, as they do, the best of various bands, musicians, performers: The Emery Sessions from my home town of Cincinnati, Hamburg’s Küchensessions, the Furious Sessions in Barcelona, Balcony TV from all around the world. The sessions are lovely and document an important aspect of musical culture, but they are all too perfect, in the sense of digital music to vinyl. Moreover, with HD video a feature of nearly every smartphone and camera, artistic uniqueness is nearly impossible to achieve.
In the midst of these trends, artist Marq Lativ Guther plunges into the past with a project that couldn’t be further from the contemporary idea of digital perfection. Armed with a repertoire of professional video cameras of late ’80s’ vintage, Marq set out last year to document a selection of concerts at venues in Hamburg. The result is an insider’s archive of Hamburg’s subculture: The Retro Video Club.
I first met Marq last year at Gagarin Records’ 15th birthday celebration in the club Westwerk, several weeks after he began his project, discovered that he had taped one of the concerts I’d already seen, a set by Holger Hiller, founding member of the German new wave art band Palais Schaumburg (1980-84). The concert at Golden Pudel Club had multiple layers of charm. Holger Hiller practically grew up in Pudel Club, he told the audience, and for this concert his son had flown in from London to support him on drums. When Marq told me he had prepared a small, handmade, numbered, DVD edition of the evening, with original artwork, it sounded too good to be true.
Since then our paths have crossed at numerous other events and I have became a regular subscriber of the DVD edition. The discs are wonderful memories of the events, but more importantly, many years from now these recordings will represent an important historical document of avant garde culture in Hamburg.
Marq’s art is subtle. It does not overwhelm with visual effects but rather presents the performances in a way that comments and accentuates the live experience. In the case of Mary Ocher’s concert at Pudel Club, Marq demonstrated the compelling presence of the artist by relying mostly on close-in shots during the performance. The mix of Felix Kubin’s set at Westwork on the other hand, using three cameras, supported the psycho-surreal tone of the music. In general the visual dynamic is always there, the camera(s) following the action with intrigued curiosity, drawing the viewer along on a fascinating visual and audio journey.
The selection of musicians in the Retro Video Club represents a cross section of important countercultural acts in Europe today including Adi Gelbart, Eli Gras, Felix Kubin, Holger Hiller, Mitch & Mitch, Peter Um, Tellavision, also Mary Ocher and Schnipo Schranke, captured while still under the status of well kept secrets. A pearl of the collection, and according to Marq, the most requested so far, is the reunion of Palais Schaumburg at HFBK’s 100th birthday celebration. My two favorite concerts of the collection are “L.A. Sued” and “Frau Kraushaar”.
“L.A. Sued” (German for L.A. South) is a collaboration that defies imagination. It includes Ray Buckmiller “Fred & Luna,” who over the years has built up an impressive repertoire of unpublished electronic compositions, the enigmatic “Putzmiester,” who in the early ’80s worked with Brian Eno and engineered the sound of bands like the B52’s, then lived off the grid for many years, and veteran musician Chris Cacavas, one of the founding members of Green on Red, who settled in Germany about twelve years ago. The music they produced that evening at Hafenbahnhof was transcendental. Ray playing as if in a trance, Chris in determined concentration and Putzmiester doggedly bending the strings. They were the three spirits of music. Marq’s cut of the concert alluded to this spirituality by superimposing different camera angles, also a symbolic statement that the music was more than the sum of all its parts. This concert is definitely one of the highlights.
The visual masterpiece is the concert of Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls at Golem, April 10, 2014. Marq himself labels it “the most radical look of all films made till now.” The music is sublime, a concert of Frau Kraushaar’s album on Rough Trade “The Power of Appropriation” in which she interpreted forgotten folk songs from around Europe, sung in eight different languages. Marq’s handling of the recording, probably due as much to the low light situation at Golem as anything else, is endlessly intriguing. Combined with the timeless musical interpretations − guitar (Sasha Demand), stand-up bass (Andrew Krell) and chorus of sirens (The Hairy Girls), the strong personality of Frau Kraushaar announcing the songs, and the near black and white appearance, it feels like an experimental television broadcast out of another dimension, Frau Kraushaar as an alternate Carmen Miranda appearing with her band at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, but of another time. At one point Frau Kraushaar alludes to the political situation in Ukraine, adding the feeling of a concert taking place under the sceptre of serious political threats. The video reminded me of sitting in front of an early 1960s’ floor model Zenith TV watching out-of-town broadcasts, but that’s as close a comparison as I can come up with.
On September 8th at Westwerk, Marq introduced the Retro Video Club project to the world, along with a concert by post noise band LXMP from Poland and a showing of Felix Kubin’s concert from last year’s Gagarin Records birthday celebration. A Website is in preparation and Marq is currently searching for a label to officially issue the series. Independent of that, more releases are on the way, including a documentary of Tellavision filmed with four cameras. Marq granted me a sneak preview, and it is going to be incredible. Ernie Kovacs would be proud.
The collection so far:
- Holger Hiller @ Golden Pudel Club (21.9.2013)
- Palais Schaumburg @ HBFK (11.10.2013)
- Gagarin Records 10th Anniversary party @ Westwerk, 16.11.2013 (Peter Um / Adi Gelbart / Felix Kubin). Exerpts and promos:
- Felix Kubin with Mitch & Mitch @ Uebel und Gefaehrlich (3.12.2013)
- Schnipo Schranke @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soAKOwyDZ6w
- Mary Ocher @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGgQeHb6-Ns
- Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls @ Golem (10.4.2014). Concert excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4J8MFOA2B0
- L.A. Sued @ Hafenbahnhof (27.4.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwypACIUarc
- Eli Gras @ Kunstverein (10.5.2014)
- Tellavision @ MS Dockville (9.8.2014) Bonus Feature: http://www.bostonhassle.com/2014/10/17/fresh-vid-tellavision-betony-world-premiere/
About the author:
Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us. Photos by Fred Roberts.