PETER LIECHTI (1951-2014)
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KICK THAT HABIT (1989, Music film, 3:4, 16mm; DVD, Digi-Beta, 45')
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Kick That Habit

Rian Murphy, Chicago, November 2008

Kick that Habit is a 1989 film by Peter Liechti, an audio-visual portrait of his native country, Eastern Switzerland. The film collects samples from the land-and-soundscape, underscoring in the process the oft-ignored industrial underpinning of our latter-day culture.

Also native to Eastern Switzerland is Voice Crack, the “everyday household electronics” duo of Norbert Moslang and Andy Guhl, whose musical workings are explored as part of Liechti’s vision. Whether clicking quietly and rhythmically or humming and shrieking at ear-splitting volume, their recycled electronics produce innovative sounds and provide an appropriate accompaniment in this cinematic search for the detritus of our culture, the lost and destroyed remains of the last century of progress.

Kick that Habit is a short, tense film comprised of flashing images: footage of Voice Crack rehearsals and concerts is juxtaposed with visual shards of the fall and winter landscape of the area between Alpstein and the Bodensee. Utilizing color and black-and-white footage as well as combining the visual and the acoustic in an expression that subtly synthesizes the two, Liechti delineates a world of existence through sound and geography. Like the world the rest of us live in, it’s a world of beauty, quiet tragedy and the endless march forward.

Chicago Reader, November 3, 2009

The Visual Music of Swiss Director Peter Liechti

By Peter Margasak

The Umbrella Music Festival officially starts Thursday night with the six-act “European Jazz Meets Chicago” mini fest at the Chicago Cultural Center. But several visiting artists are getting an early jump by playing shows on Wednesday night. The Hideout presents two ad hoc groupings of top-notch European players, among them guitarist David Stackenas, drummer Martin Brandlmayr, and reedist Liudas Mockunas, and Swiss reedist Hans Koch plays a solo set presented by the Renaissance Society at the U. of C.'s Bond Chapel. (Koch also plays a free solo set Friday at 4 PM at Corbett vs. Dempsey that isn't officially part of the festival.)
Koch is still best known for his longtime participation in an excellent trio with cellist Martin Schütz and percussionist Fredy Studer. But on the recent Synopsis (Altrisuoni), he makes great music with two players I’m unfamiliar with—trombonist Denis Beuret and guitarist Vinz Vonlanthen. Koch concentrates on his rich bass clarinet vocabulary, full of his usual striated whinnies and wails and percussive pops and thwacks, and through the 24 pieces were recorded over a two-month period in nine different locations, the trio is exceptionally coherent, shadowing and complementing one another’s improvised utterances as if they were all planned out in advance.

I recently kicked off a personal DVD-watching marathon with a vibrant documentary of a month-long engagement that Koch, Schütz, and Studer engineered and presented at a warehouse that they’d transformed into a makeshift nightclub. Hardcore Chambermusic—A Club for 30 Days, released on DVD by Intakt Records in 2007, is the work of Swiss director Peter Liechti, who synthesizes a ton of material into a concise 70 minutes, building the density, tension, and drama of the music as the film proceeds. Performance footage is interspersed with abstracted images of the warehouse space and postconcert discussions with the musicians on the nature of improvisation, both as a general practice and as it’s evolved for this particular trio during their time together. Though the talk could’ve ended up boring and dry, by seamlessly illustrating many of the points with actual performances Liechti maintains the film’s organic flow.

Still, compared to some of Liechti’s earlier work, Hardcore Chambermusic is rather conventional. Earlier this year Drag City Records released two of the director’s most compelling and entertaining documentaries on DVD. Kick That Habit was made back in 1989, a kind of experimental portrait of the great Swiss improvising duo Voice Crack that combines grainy black-and-white footage of the group performing in a warehouse space with elliptical landscape shots of remote, wintry Switzerland, in the mountains and on the water. The subtitle of the film is “A Sound Movie,” and indeed, the soundtrack is integral, and sometimes it seems like the images are actually secondary. In one particularly great scene the musicians sit around a table eating and preparing some of the homemade electronic noise-making devices they were famous for, and the sounds of eggs cracking or bread being buttered are just as loud, prevalent, and musical as the output of the low-tech machines. The sound design here is pure genius; Walter Murch would love this one.

Signer’s Suitcase: On the Road With Roman Signer is from 1995, and in it Liechti follows around the titular Swiss visual artist—he’s responsible for the photograph on the cover of Gastr del Sol’s Upgrade & Afterlife—as he creates various site-specific “temporary sculptures,” which are really more like quasi-scientific experiments that often involve small explosives. It’s not as formally inventive as the Voice Crack film, but thanks partly to the deadpan humor of its subject and the director’s abrupt editing, it’s a blast to watch. Many of Signer’s “pieces” are patently absurd; in one he dons a pair of hip waders and stands about 20 feet beneath an elevated oil drum filled with water. The container is punctured, the water falls in a steady stream, and Signer positions himself so that it fills the waders to the bursting point—at which point he tumbles over. In one piece he shoots long red ribbons over the enormous mouth of the Stromboli volcano, a gesture that sounds grandiose but turns out pathetic in scale, while in another hilarious scene he flies a toy helicopter into the window shutters of an abandoned Swiss hotel. At the completion of each piece Signer turns and walks away, as if it never happened. Sound is important here too, particularly when there’s a crash or an explosion; in its aftermath the sound seems to evaporate instantly, almost mocking the action that preceded it.

Titelblatt The Wire"The Wire" (January 2009)

Cross Platform Sound in other media
The playful 'sound-films' of Swiss director Peter Liechti
intensify the listening experience with help from improvising duo Voice Crack.

By Jon Dale

There are two scenes in Swiss film maker Peter Liechti's Kick That Habit, a sound-film produced in collaboration with 'cracked everyday electronics' outfit Voice Crack (Norbert Möslang and Andy Guhl), that are beguiling in their simplicity, yet are made strange by their immediate context. As Kick That Habit opens, we find Möslang, Guhl and Liechti playing minigolf together in a trailer park. The multiple colours of the minigolf wheel are incongruous against its bleached-out environs, and its shape is echoed in a jump-cut to a household fan, the rattling created by the fan's centrifugal force working as a sound bridge between scenes. Later in the film, Voice Crack and friends are seated at the dinner table, their every slice and gulp amplified and fired directly into your ears.

By removing dialogue, Liechti focuses your listening on the noise within the experience. But for Liechti, these scenes also allegorise the fondness for play he shares with Voice Crack: "Minigolf is a game, you play minigolf," he reminds me, "and Voice Crack's table setting is also a game - they play music. And in the film we play this game together - to enjoy it together, to succeed and to fail together, Furthermore, I liked the absurd size of this mini-minigolf, comparable to the strange instruments, toys [and] tools of our musicians". Reflecting on his experience of the film, Voice Crack's Möslang continues: "I like these sections because they bring for me another view on everyday life, sometimes a bit like musique concrete."

Liechti started making films in 1983, after studying art and art history, and spending some time painting, writing, and graphics and drawing instruction. Skipping out on the traditional institutional trajectory of the film maker has served Liechti well. "I was free and easy in discovering or even 'inventing' the medium from scratch for myself," he recalls of his early days experimenting with the form, "which was a very exciting process. I was not anxious at all, and completely carefree in using a film camera - maybe much more like a brush for painting than a photographic instrument."

Liechti first worked with Voice Crack on his 1985 collage film Senkrecht/Waagrecht (Vertical/horizontal). Featuring footage culled from Polish television, and film of two performances by Swiss visual artist Roman Signer, Liechti ended up asking Voice Crack for "underpainting" in Senkrecht/Waagrecht, a process Möslang explains as "[finding] a sound which amplifies the visuals". "They did it in a perfect way," Liechti elaborates. "for example, using the sound of the electric air-charge for lightning during a thunderstorm." For their part, Voice Crack had moved on from their earlier excursions into European free improvisation, as Möslang/Guhl, and were now using bent and broken consumer electronics, among other non-musical implements, to construct brutish yet richly textured walls of noise.

Made in 1989 and released on DVD this month, Kick That Habit catches both Liechti and Voice Crack at significant passes in their 'careers', with both beginning seriously to formulate and refine their visual and audio aesthetics. The film weaves and continually intersects two key threads: firstly, footage of Voice Crack performing live and recording, and secondly, documentation of a travelogue, "an original portrait of my homeland between the mountains, Alpstein, and the lake, Bodensee." Liechti explains. "A pure sound-movie, just sound and image, all the visual and acoustic elements in a complete balance."

Many film makers in this situation would lean on interpretive functions, trying somehow to translate the sound. This invariably results in the eventual subjugation of audio to visual. Liechti's approach avoids this, never attempting tedious 'visual analogies' for Voice Crack's improvisations. Rather, the sound is amplified such that it's of a piece with the visuals - there's direct correspondence, such that the 'sound' in sound-film is as important as 'film'. In the aforementioned dinner scene, there's equivalence between watching Voice Crack and friends preparing and eating their meal, and the audio produced by these gestures - the sounds of the meal are almost absurdly enhanced. That the guests are eating from a table drowning in electronics equipment adds to the subtle humour of the scenario.

Liechti's films are also journey-like in their approach. In Kick That Habit, Voice Crack's performances are broken up by shots of the director's Swiss homeland, often filmed from moving vehicles - trains, cars, ski-lifts. "[Novelist] Thomas Bernhard said, walking and thinking is the same", Liechti reflects. "I'd say not just walking and not just thinking; the modes of transport can change from walking to driving, but we're still on the way - thinking, feeling, dreaming, and perceiving the world inside and around ourselves."

This notion of travel as germane to reflection is also inherent in Liechti's later films, such as 2003's Hans im Glück (Lucky Jack), where the film's protagonist hikes from Zurich to St Gallen in an effort to quit smoking. The durational and endurance aspects of travel are also implicit in 2006's Hardcore Chambermusic, which documents Swiss trio Koch-Schütz-Studer's series of 30 concerts over 30 days.

All of these interests - travel, an intrinsic relationship between audio and visual, the crossing of artistic boundaries - lock together in the film's final scenes. Here, Voice Crack place light resistors on a white wall, onto which Liechti projects filmed footage, including a windmill turning; a flag flapping in the breeze; a landscape, a forest, and a field of flowers all shot from a moving vehicle. The movement in the visuals interacts with the light resistors, producing the audio track, in a manner quite similar to Guy Sherwin's optical sound-films. Here, light creates sound, the fullest incarnation of the interlocking nature of audio and visual in Kick That Habit. "It was our intention that the film should culminate in producing its own soundtrack," Liechti confirms, "to express the complete synthesis between film and music. It should never be a film about the musicians, but a film with them."

Kick That Habit is released on DVD this month by Drag City. Copyright © 2008.

Ein «Tonfilm» Christian Pauli, Der Bund, Nr.284/4-12-90
«Kick That Habit» das ist so etwas wie ihr programmatischer Leitspruch geworden. Weg mit allen Gewohnheiten. Möslang/Guhl sind wahre (und späte) Vertreter des Avantgarde-Kunst-Konzept. Zu ihren historischen Bezügen zählen sie denn auch die russische Avantgarde der 20er Jahre (z. B. den Filmer Dziga Vertov «Der Mann mit der Kamera»), den Futuristen Luigi Russolo, den (Musik-)Befreier John Cage oder auch bildende Künstler wie Joseph Beuys und die Fluxusbewegung.
Wer Andy Guhl und Norbert Möslang nur als Musiker benennt, greift zu kurz. Das hat der St.Galler Filmemacher Peter Liechti «(Grimsel»), ein Künstlerkollege des Duos, begriffen: Sein Film «Kick That Habit», der an den diesjährigen Solothurner Filmtagen Premiere hatte, nennt sich im Untertitel «Ein Tonfilm mit den Musikern Norbert Möslang und Andy Guhl Gast Knut Remond». Liechti hat die Hierarcchie zwischen zuerst Bild und dann Ton zu durchbrechen versucht. Und tatsächlich: Zuweilen ist es ganz schön schwierig, die Bilder und Töne in «Kick That Habit» zu trennen. Und der Schluss ist ganz einfach genial: Schon gefilmte Sequenzen werden auf eine Wand projiziert, die mit Sensoren versehen ist, welche das Licht in Ton verwandeln, und dieser kommt wieder auf die Tonspur des Filmes … Der Film vertont sich gleich selber. Für Andy Guhl und Norbert Möslang sind Kreisläufe und Rückkoppelungen wichtige Arbeitsprinzipien.

«Grenzenlos» Patrik Landolt, WoZ, 26-1-1990
(…) St.Galler Avantgarde
Der St.Galler Filmer Peter Liechti legt mit «Kick that Habit» einen neuen «Heimatfilm» vor, eine aufregende Film und Musikmontage aus dem Osten der Schweiz. Zwei Ebenen sind ineinander verflochten: Auf der einen Seite werden die beiden St.Galler Musiker Norbert Möslang und Andy Guhl mit ihrer musikalischen Arbeit porträtiert. Andererseits schaffen verschiedene Filmfragmente aus Peter Liechtis Super-8-Filmarchiv eine die Musik vertiefende Dimension. Peter Liechti sagte in seinem Statement vor der Filmaufführung in Solothurn, dass die Art und Weise, wie Norbert Möslang und Andy Guhl mit einfachen musikalischen Mitteln Resultate erzeugen, auch für seine filmische Arbeit ein Vorbild sei. Die beiden Musiker waren in den siebziger Jahren im Umfeld der europäischen Freejazz-Szene aktiv und entwickelten Mitte der achtziger Jahre mit «Wegwerfelektronik» eine radikale Soundund Geräuschmusik. Dazu knacken, oder besser gesagt, überlisten sie elektronischen Abfall wie alte Radios, Plattenspieler, Mixer etc. Ihre langjährige musikalische Erfahrung lässt die beiden Musiker zu grossartigen Ergebnissen kommen, wie zahlreiche Plattendokumente belegen.
Liechti zeigt Möslang und Guhl in ihrem Atelier bei der Arbeit, zeigt, wie sie auf dem Müll Abfälle inspizieren, dann Ausschnitte aus einem Live-Konzert. Zwischendurch geht's hinauf zum Alpstein oder hinab zum Bodensee. Bilder einer Menschengruppe, die im Schnee stapft, von einer Fahrt auf den Säntis, vom Inneren des Berghotels, wie die Leute vom Gipfel hinuntergaffen. Dann folgt ein hyperrealistischer Imbiss, wobei die akustische Überhöhung (mit Klangabnehmern im Dreiminuten-Ei oder in der Orange) jede Bewegung zum Klangschock macht, den Schnitt in die Frucht zur Bösartigkeit, den Schlag mit dem Löffeli aufs Ei zur Brutalität. (…)
«Step Across the Border» und «Kick that Habit» sind aussergewöhnliche Musikfilme: Beide porträtieren Künstler-Szenen, wo - vergleichbar heute mit wenigen anderen künstlerischen Sparten - experimentiert und nach neuen Ausdrucksmitteln gekundschaftet wird, wo aktuelles Zeitgefühl kondensiert, wo sich umfassendes Lebensgefühl äussert. Und beiden liegt die gleiche Haltung zugrunde. Eben: Kick that habit oder step across the border!

«Wo Berge sich nutzbringend erheben» Walter Ruggle, Tages Anzeiger, 1990
Mit «Sommerhügel» und «Ausflug ins Gebirge» hat sich Peter Liechti den Ruf als Ostschweizer Achternbusch geholt. Definitiv bewährt hat sich sein gewitzter Zugang zum voralpinen Raum im «Ausflug ins Gebirge», dessen Titel mittlerweilen leitmotivisch für Liechtis filmisches Werk betrachtet werden kann. Die Berge mögen seine Sinne belasten - sie befreien definitiv des Filmers Geist.
Auch «Kick That Habit» und «Grimsel» dokumentieren Ausflüge ins Gebirge, der eine auf den Spuren von Tönen, der andere auf jenen der von Unterlands-Technokraten bedrohten Natur. Liechti betrachtet die Arbeit der Musiker Norbert Möslang und Andy Guhl; sein Schnittmeister Dieter Gränicher montierte das Bildmaterial zu einer immer wieder verblüffenden Komposition. So schwingen in «Kick that Habit» plötzlich nicht nur die Drahtseile im Musikerexperiment, auch die Luftseilbahn auf den Hohen Kasten scheint einzustimmen, ihr durchhängendes Seil einen Rhythmus aufzunehmen.
Vergleichtbar mit «Step Across the Border», dem heissen Tip für Rhythmusfreaks, liegt hier ein Musikfilm vor, der die Tonebene und die visuelle Ebene gleichwertig behandelt, dem Gehör gewissermassen ein Gesicht verleiht.

Züri-Tip, TA, 18-5-90
Peter Liechti's Musikfilm «Kick That Habit» beweist so viel formalen Eigenwillen, dass die Wände wackeln. Sein Porträt der beiden Abfallelektroniker Norbert Möslang und Andy Guhl vereinigt aussagestarke Bilder in einer phänomenalen Schnittfolge.

«Ein wahrer Tonfilm» Helmuth Zipperlen, Solothuner Filmtage, 20-1-1990
«Kick That Habit» ist eine Art Symphonie der Töne und visualisiert durch Bilder aus der Ostschweiz. Der Schneemenge nach zu schliessen, im letzten Winter gedreht. Der Regisseur und die beiden Musiker Norbert Möslang und Andy Guhl versuchen beim Minigolfspiel eine Geräuschfolge. Mit diesem klaren Einstieg beginnt der Film. Später sieht man die Ausführenden Schutthalden und Abfallhaufen durchwühlen und sich aus weggeworfenen Gegenständen eine Geräuschkulisse zusammenzubasteln, welche letztlich in der Abfolge der Geräusche Musik ergibt. Eine Seilbahn dient als Denkanstoss, an zwei Drahtseilen, quer über die Bühne gespannt, mit Holstäben Klänge zu erzielen.
Wie diese Art Musik Verfremdungseffekte aufweist, wirken zeitweise die Landschaftsaufnahmen durch Einfärbungen verfremdet. Verblüffend sind auch die durch feine Mikrophone eingefangenen Alltagsgeräusche. Da tönt es dann wuchtig von der Leinwand, wenn ein Ei beklopft wird. Das abschliessende Konzert der beiden Musiker mit diesen RecyclingInstrumenten wird vom Schlagzeuger Knut Remond begleitet. Diese Aufnahmen gehören in ihrer Virtuosität zum besten, was je in einem Musikfilm zu sehen war.
Die Mischung hat für den Filmtechniker Florian Eidenbenz (auch heuer wieder für verschiedene Filme tätig) hohe Anforderungen gestellt, die er bravourös gemeistert hat. Der Film entzieht sich weitgehend einer verbalen Beschreibung.

© 2003-2021 :  : Impressum :  Zum Seitenanfang : Konzept Claude Brauchli / Programmierung+Entwicklung Mathias Knauer