Can's forays into rock music were ego-free, expressionistic and pared down to the bone...
Mike Barnes 2005-01-27
Can were one of the most original and influential groups from the early '70s Krautrock scene and remain one of the hippest names to drop. This first phase of a reissue programme covers their golden period from 1969-1972. It's as welcome as it is overdue - utilitarian covers and some less-than-sparkling CD transfers had given their back catalogue an air of neglect. Now this astonishing music comes vividly remastered, and repackaged with archive photos and sleeve notes.
Formed in Cologne in 1968, Can comprised two ex-students of Stockhausen, both working in academia, one of their teenage students, a former free jazz drummer and a black American improvisational singer.
Although this combination could have been truly unlistenable, their forays into rock music were ego-free, expressionistic and pared down to the bone. Irmin Schmidt had impeccable keyboard wizard credentials but favoured abstract sounds and simple lines. For long stretches he played nothing at all.
Their debut, Monster Movie, starts with the raw splurge of "Father Cannot Yell", a relentless and sinister take on psychedelic rock topped by vocalist Malcolm Mooney's terse poetics. The 20 minute "Yoo Doo Right" - a fluid, rhythmically shifting, two chord mantra -set up a base camp for future explorations.
Soundtracks features the lighter, incanatatory style of incoming vocalist, Japanese busker Damo Suzuki, alongside two tracks from the departing Mooney. This collection of film and TV music peaks on the perpetual motion motorik of "Mother Sky".
The extraordinary double album Tago Mago arrived in 1972. It showcased Can as a unique rhythmic unit on the towering proto-funk of "Halleluwah" and the much sampled, rotating drum patterns of "Mushroom". On the lengthy "Aumgn", what sounds like someone on acid attempting karaoke over an avant-garde tape collage was just that, with basso profundo chanting by a tripping Schmidt.
The deliciously syncopated "Spoon" was a number one hit single in Germany later that year. It appears on Ege Bamyasi alongside a batch of concise, impressionistic pop songs and some fierce improvisation. It's the pick of these reissues and "One More Night", with Damo's dreamy vocals wafting over a sublime groove, is its highlight.