|1. Future Days|
|4. Bel Air|
Can were another of the bands in the vanguard of this movement, and they've been plying their uniquely skewed musical vision for more than 30 years now. This album, from 1973, their third and last with Japanese vocalist Damo Suzuki (whose vocalising is every bit as idiosyncratic as the music of his bandmates), finds them at the peak of their powers.
The music on the preceding two albums with Suzuki was a bewildering array of stripped back grooves, experimental noise and abstract noodlings (frequently all at the same time) and this album is little different, except that this time the esoteric blend is moulded into something more focused and accessible. The Can hallmarks of cyclical rhythms and clipped, minor key guitar phrasings are here in abundance, but used in a more consistently coherent way than they sometimes were on Tago Mago or Ege Bamyasi.
From the gentle wash of waves that opens the album to the final bars of the epic 'Bel Air' this is a surprisingly sunny album, lacking the darker moments whipped up on the previous outings, weaving intricate patterns from relatively simple structures without ever feeling like it's being wilfully 'difficult' (in the way that say, Radiohead or Blur records do these days). It's just the sound of a band playing with ideas, trying to do something genuinely different and to push the envelope.
From the Curtis Mayfield-on-LSD percussion that propels 'Future Days' along at a gently rolling pace for the best part of ten minutes, to the restlessly inventive honking and squawking accompaniment on 'Moonshake' there are lots of things to enjoy.
The twenty minute 'Bel Air' which occupies the album's second half, is somehow reminiscent of Prog rock. The song itself probably lacks the grandiose ideas of ELP or Yes, but in its sheer vastness and its multi-part structure it has clear links to Prog. However, unlike much Prog there's no messing around with segues, if it fancies moving on to another section it might just stop dead and set off in another direction.
As well as this though, there is a relationship to funk. Two such conflicting styles are obviously unlikely bedfellows, but the way it seems to draw on both also appears to feed something back into them, enforcing a tighter sensibility on funk and a looser, more informal structure on progressive rock. This is neither as sloppily unfocused as, say, There's A Riot Goin' On, nor as overblown as Tales From Topographic Oceans. But the influence of this music can be heard in work by David Bowie (particularly around the time of Low and Heroes), King Crimson (although here the influence is surely two way) and even Joy Division.
This is remarkable music, especially considering that it is effectively, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. The music is hard to define, but if you like any of the bands I've mentioned here, this is worth investing money in. It's a strange trip, but it's certainly one worth taking. Nothing else sounds quite like this.
To describe this ambient would be unfair, its subtle and subdued but enthralling and... Read more
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