'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nine Feet Over The Tarmac

Here's a salutary tale of serendipity and confusion from that half-derelict palace of memories the Electrical Intertubes.
'Improved Sound Limited' were a 1970s Krautrock band of quite outstanding obscurity. In the twilight of their career they contributed four tunes and a song to the soundtrack of Wim Wenders' 1976 Cannes prize-winner Im Lauf Der Zeit. Unavailable on DVD and rarely watched even by Wenders afficionados, the film's a long, slow-moving meditation on (among much else)friendship and the passing of time. But it's shot in serenely elegiac black and white and if you watch it in the right rhythm, is an utterly compelling experience. The music, all airy country blues, willowy pedal steel and echoing drums, matches the images with quiet perfection and suggests that songwriter Axel Lindstadt had been listening to a lot of Harvest-era Neil Young. It also has some sumptuous saxophone riffs (OK, you can see where this is going). The music made an enormous impression on me when I first saw the film. From time to time, I tried to track down a copy of the soundtrack - even going to the trouble of collaring Wenders at a film festival in the '80s and asking him about it. (He was evasive).
One evening last week I was surfing Youtube when I came across a series of short films made by a middle-aged Frenchman calling himself 'radiateur93'. Montages of family photographs and home-movies, they were deeply personal works, watching them felt impolite. But 'radiateur93' had spliced them to the Improved Sound Limited Im Lauf Der Zeit soundtrack. A brief traverse led me to the band's own surviving videos and promos. The bad news: their other music really is quite mind-bogglingly dull. The good news: a compilation CD 'Road Trax' exists, and it includes all five soundtrack pieces. In an instant, thirty years of searching were rewarded. I surfed off and ordered the CD from an obscure Berlin music shop.

Just after this transaction completed I finally found my way to Wenders' own website rather than the cybersquatters selling DVDs of his films and discovered that it offers free mp3 downloads of the same songs. It was the work of five minutes to download them, burn a CD and walk over to the car.
So I spent part of a bright summer evening driving down that boulevard of broken dreams the A66 to the tune of some achingly familiar music on Thursday. I suppose the Road Trax CD is on its way from Berlin.
Coda: for those still wondering what the fuss is about, I also discovered that Youtube has an old 70s trailer of Im Lauf Der Zeit which almost completely fails to convey the hypnotically serene beauty of this film.

WARNING: Contains scenes of existential Volkswagen driving. Do not attempt this at home. Or on the open road.

2 Comments:

Blogger philip.gilliland said...

It's been available on DVD here in Germany for a couple of years. amazon.de has it in stock.

Phil Gilliland

16/6/08 12:50 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

Phil - I'm grateful for the correction. Unfortunately there's the small matter of English subtitles for the germanically challenged. Though vague rumours of an English DVD release have come to my ears . . .

17/6/08 3:38 pm  

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