Customer Review

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prehistoric Future Indeed, 6 July 2012
This review is from: Lost Tapes Box Set (Audio CD)
Can-The Lost Tapes, a compendium of three hours of material sifted from more than 50 hours of archive tapes spanning a decade from 1968 , has caused a mighty wave amongst musos the world over. We've had scribes with their mouths open citing an equivalent to Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes and even the lost archive of The Rolling Stones. Some reviews are so gushing that you'd think the Lost City Of Atlantis had just surfaced somewhere in the Mediterranean. It took Irmin Schmidt¹s son-in-law, Jono Podmore, years to sift through the hours and hours of tapes, which had been carefully curated in a temperature-controlled storeroom in Germany. Schmidt never considered the archive really lost but just forgotten and it had to be someone with fresh ears, with some distance from the creativity itself, that had to do the trench work of sifting,identifying and re-compiling.

But let's get rid of a few myths first. I've read comparisons to Kraftwerk and that if the crafty Dusseldorfers were Germany's answer to The Beatles then Can were its Rolling Stones. This is pure fantasy. Can were very much an underground band, only denting the Top Of The Pops studio in London in 1976 with 'I Want More' a track pushed by Virgin whom the signed to in 1975. Fanciful hindsight can easily distort and Can are more accurately accommodated inside progressive rock and can rightly be seen as Germany's answer to Pink Floyd. During the 1970s an apocryphal story has the mighty Can turning down a support slot with the Floyd because they would have to play a shorter set than normal. In the world of Messrs Czukay,Karoli,Liebezeit and Schmidt this would be a no no. Instant composition, improvisation or just plain fearless courage; take your pick, opening this archive brings you that much closer to what Can were all about.

Firstly exactly one third of the 30 tracks feature the original American vocalist Malcolm Mooney. There's an intense spidery quality to the rock played with Mooney, the same kind of intensity beloved of lovers of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. And it covers more or less the same late 1960s period. A track like the brilliant 'Waiting For The Streetcar' could easily have made it to Monster Movie ,if it were a double album. Moving into the Damo Susuki era one is struck at just how different the material here is from the released albums. 'Spoon' , a three-minute single from 1972's Ege Bamyasi is transformed here into a 16-minute juggernaut of explosive drums,searing guitar and improvisatory genius. 'A Swan Is Born' bears little or no relationship to the finished track 'Sing Swan Song' off the same album and so forth and so on.

In 1974 and 1976 Can released two albums of off-cuts Limited Edition and Unlimited Edition featuring their famous Ethnological Forgery Series. Here 'EFS 108','Dead Pigeon Suite' and 'Evening All Day' could easily come from them. Fans of Ambient will swoon in front of 'Nocturnal' and 'Alice', the latter the long sought-after theme music from Wim Wenders's breakthrough film Alice In The Cities from 1974. The set ends on a high note with two incadescent live versions of 'Mushroom' from 1971's Tago Mago and for me the best track on the album a gorgeously live and for once note-perfect version of Ege Bamyasi¹s 'One More Saturday Night'. In short far more in every way than was expected.

Mark Prendergast, London. (Author of The Ambient Century).
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