Recent listening, current

Friday, January 27, 2017

211. Can / Tago Mago (1971)

Each of Can's albums is distinctly a product of the legendary ensemble, but each also presents its own direction and tone. Tago Mago is the first turning point. As the maiden voyage with Damo Suzuki, it opens the period of their most innovative work. "Paperhouse" displays the new chemistry: unintelligible motivic phrases are intoned, sometimes shouted by Suzuki. His strained voice is utilized for its value as a rhythm instrument, and also for texture. The caterwaul is entwined with Michael Karoli's grainy, insect-like guitar, while jitterbugging around Jaki Liebezeit's impeccable, discomfiting claptrap. Elsewhere, fragments of surreptitiously recorded rehearsals are draped over layers of arranged material in moody loops that crash together with the anxiety of cut-and-paste editing. "Mushroom" features a disorienting reversed vocal and further collisions of noise and melody. Moving into the dense heart of the album, "Halleluwah" is the archetype for Can's trailblazing approach to music. Suzuki mumbles and howls over noisy keyboards and chiming guitars, while Liebezeit parades in zombie fashion to the track's uncertain conclusion 18 minutes later. It's a 2-LP set, audacious and necessary. The music moves without being touched, as if by enchantment. If there exists a skeleton key to understanding Can and everything after, this is it.

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