Been a while, hasn't it? Originally conceived way back in 2008, it was a few years after that, in early 2011 that the box set was announced. Delay after delay happened, but finally, well over half a year later than planned, we have it. So, was all this excitement worth it, or does this box set consist of sonic barrel scrapings from the bands long forgotten jams? Well, if Can keyboardist Irmin Schmidt hadn't have had anything to do with it, it might well have done. He remembers that "We always had tapes running, but 10 years' tapes running all the time 12 hours a day would come to an unimaginably big pile...But perhaps a tape would have 10 minutes on it that we thought were good. So there were little snippets and bits and pieces of all kinds from different periods on one tape... chaos." By the sounds of it then, with fifty hours of tapes, had they given in to that money-spinning temptation of releasing multiple volumes, each could have been of a very dodgy quality. Thankfully, this won't be the case. "This is the final extract from the archive. More, there isn't. There are another 47 hours not worth releasing, which will definitely disappear." Schmidt stated, in one sentence, crushing any further speculation. And, on that note, on to the actual album.
The set's twenty six pounds asking price seems reasonable, given that you get three discs, three hours of music, a rather sumptuous 10" box and a 28 page booklet. It doesn't disappoint musically either. Starting proceedings is Millionspiel, a trippy rocker locked in Can's trademark percussion-led groove. "Obviously the tapes weren't really lost, but were left in the cupboards of the studio archives for so long everybody just forgot about them." Schmidt's sleeve notes explain, and even after listening to the album for a few minutes you start to wonder why they hadn't dug out the tapes earlier. The Malcolm Mooney led classics-in-the-making Are You Waiting for the Streetcar and Deadly Doris both feel like they could have been contenders for inclusion in 1976's archive comp Unlimited Edition
. It's an impressively diverse album, too. Though there's the normal Can fare of tribal deep-funk grooves and some mega jamming, there's also darkly ambient sound collages reminiscent of their disturbing masterpiece Amung or one of fellow noise god's Faust's trippiest moments. Blind Mirror Surf even sounds like an early unreleased Mothers of Invention sound collage. As disc one goes, special mentions should go to the awesome seventeen minute jam Graublau, which rips up chunks of different jams, stitches them back together and leaves the listener to revel in the chaotic brilliance, and also the sinister When Darkness Comes, another example of Mooney's great improvisation.
Discs two is equally brilliant - the early portion of disc two continues where the first left off, with plenty more Mooney material. There's also plenty material from the classic Damo Suzuki era. Disc three comprises of later material, and although their albums did waver in quality when Suzuki left in 73, even the post Soon Over Babaluma
material here is rather good. Admittedly at points, disc three is rather weaker than the first two discs - without any vocals to hold things together; the lengthy live tracks (of which there are quite a number) feel chaotic and less focused than they surely would otherwise. However, it never descends into being unlistenable, and is always quite enjoyable - although you do start to wonder why you're listening to this when you could be hearing Tago Mago
. There are some gems on disc three, though. Messer, Scissors, Fork and Light is brilliant, Alice shows them at their drugged out mellowest, not dissimilar to Unlimited Edition's Ghommorha in sound, whilst the outstanding live version of Mushroom (which actually appears on the superb bootleg album Horrortrip in the Paperhouse, although here the sound quality is vastly better and it is correctly named 'Mushroom',rather than Paperhouse as it was called on the the bootleg) couldn't be more different from the studio version if it tried, and is even better for it. So then, not only is the album itself (for the most part) brilliant, but I feel that the decision to make the album roughly chronological (One or two tracks skip ahead a few years, but they never feel out of place) adds to the album, and balance between Mooney and Suzuki material is excellent, both having a roughly equal amount of songs, with plenty of instrumentals in between. Basically then, those who value good music need to own a Can album - they're massively influential, and really changed the musical rule book, and given the broad array of eras this covers and the quality of the material, this is an essential purchase for long time fans, and also a worthy introduction to newcomers alike, although the easier option for those looking to fill their heads with Can may be to just buy Tago Mago, which has just recently been reissued in a 40th anniversary edition
, and work your way from there.