Excellent Kraut Rock!
Chappa | Olympus Mons, Mars | 10/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1971 Can released their third studio album (without counting the 1968 recordings "Delay") titled "Tago Mago" and it marked the debut of Japanese vocalist Damo Suzuki. The four remaining members stayed the same with Michael Karoli on guitar, Holger Czukay on bass, Jaki Liebezeit on drums, and Irmin Schmidt on keyboards.
The first song "Paperhouse" runs for seven minutes and a half displaying a prog-rock feel in the first section somewhat similar to something that Pink Floyd could have done but the distinctive vocals of Suzuki are already in place. Before long, the mood changes and Jaki's tribal drumming dominates while Karoli throws some lead guitar lines plus Suzuki's strange whisperings. In the coda, some tremolo-laden keyboard notes are repeated making for a great ending. Without warning, the next song out "Mushroom" comes in; a composition dominated by a great drum beat from Liebezeit featuring a metallic snare drum sound with a lot of reverb. Suzuki shines also here providing some simple catchy vocal lines. Karoli pulls out the violin to play a slightly dissonant note here and there but the thing to really pay attention here is the keyboard work from Schmidt. This is a great example of his textural style of playing!
After the fade-out, the sound of thunder and rain is heard. Soon, a cool drum beat kicks in plus the trade-mark atmospheric keyboard work. Damo's vocals are played backwards making for a dark and mysterious vibe. Towards the end the main structure shifts somewhat and Karoli delivers some mean bluesy licks till the fad-out. Excellent! The longest song clocking at 18:32 follows and it's called "Halleluhwah". Here, the band brings forward a psychedelic funk-rock sound with a killer drum rhythm that repeats nearly throughout its whole length. Listen carefully about four minutes into it... the drumming fades away and you'll hear a cool, short bridge with some nice piano runs before it goes back to the main pattern. This could be described as early trance-rock! Simply awesome!
From now on, things gets more avant-garde and abstract with "Aumgn", a seventeen-minute structure-less composition filled for the most part with experimental and strange electronic effects. Listen carefully during the first two minutes though...you'll hear a cool dark melody on guitar from Karoli! This is where he might have invented the post-punk style of guitar playing! Keyboardist Schmidt chants the song's title over and over in a droning manner and towards the end Liebezeit plays some tribal drumming. Great experiment!
The experimentation continues in "Peking O", another long composition (11:35) which puts Suzuki on the front singing some eastern inspired chants in the intro. This track is notable for the use of a primitive electronic drum machine. Some apparently Chinese inspired melodies follow and soon Suzuki comes in to do this wild scat singing! The first time I heard this, it made me laugh! But wait! Towards the end the whole thing sounds like it's going to collapse! The vocals get more manic and in addition, there's some dissonant keyboard lines and some screeching violin as well...or is it a guitar? Well, I'm not sure!
The last piece "Bring Me Coffee or Tea" closes the LP in a much more accessible fashion. The vocals are more melodic/controlled and the textural keyboard work really shines here. Karoli plays some cool lead guitar too throughout this nearly seven-minute jam. A great LP ending!
Can is essential listening for those who enjoy the experimental nature of Kraut-Rock and I'd say "Tago Mago" is a good place to start!
Thanks for taking the time to read!