Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tago Gaol

Can was a musical group formed in West Germany in 1968, working within the scene that music critics dubbed "krautrock", with a style grounded in the garage rock of bands such as The Velvet Underground and world music as studied by professionals in ethnomusicology. Described by keyboard player Irmin Schmidt as an "anarchist community" [1] and constructing their music largely through free improvisation and editing, which bassist Holger Czukay has referred to as "instant compositions" [2], they had only occasional commercial success, with singles such as "Spoon" and "I Want More" reaching national singles charts, but through albums such as Tago Mago (1971) and Ege Bamyasi (1972), Can exerted a considerable influence on avant-garde, experimental, underground, ambient, New Wave and electronic music.[3]
1 History
1.1 Early years: 1968-1970
1.2 Classic years: 1971-1973
1.3 Later years: 1974-1979
1.4 After the split and reunion: 1980 onwards
2 Music
2.1 Influences
2.2 Subsequent influence
2.3 Improvisation, recording and live shows
3 Band members
3.1 Core
3.2 Other members
3.3 Additional collaborators
4 Discography
5 Notes
6 References
7 External links

[edit]Early years: 1968-1970

Monster Movie (1969)
Can formed in Cologne in 1968 comprising bass guitarist Holger Czukay, keyboard player Irmin Schmidt, guitarist Michael Karoli, and drummer Jaki Liebezeit, along with original member David Johnson, an American musicologist who left shortly after the band's founding when it began taking a rock direction. They used the names "Inner Space" and "The Can" before finally settling on Can. Liebezeit subsequently suggested the backronym "communism, anarchism, nihilism" for the band's name. [4]
In the autumn of 1968, they enlisted the creative, highly rhythmic, but often confrontational American vocalist Malcolm Mooney, with whom they recorded the material for an album, Prepared to Meet Thy Pnoom (which did not get released until 1981, under the name Delay 1968, as their record company rejected it[5]). The band then decided to record another album of original material from scratch, which later became Monster Movie, released in 1969. Mooney's bizarre and (often apparently psychotic) ranting stood in contrast to the stark minimalism of the music, which was influenced particularly by garage rock, funk and psychedelic rock. Repetition was stressed on bass and drums, particularly on the epic "Yoo Doo Right" which had been edited down from a six-hour improvisation to take up a mere single side of vinyl.
Mooney returned to America soon afterwards on the advice of a psychiatrist after being told that getting away from the chaotic music of Can would be better for his mental health[6]. He was replaced by the less overtly challenging Damo Suzuki, a young Japanese traveller found busking outside a cafe by Czukay and Liebezeit. The band's first record with Suzuki was Soundtracks, released in 1970, which also contained two tracks recorded with Mooney.
[edit]Classic years: 1971-1973

Tago Mago (1971)
The next few years saw Can release their most acclaimed works, which arguably did as much to define the krautrock genre as those of any other group. While their earlier recordings tended to be loosely based on traditional song structures, on their mid-career albums the band reverted to an extremely fluid improvisational style. The double album Tago Mago (1971) is often seen as a groundbreaking, influential and deeply unconventional record, based on intensely rhythmic jazz-inspired drumming, improvised guitar and keyboard soloing (frequently intertwining each other), extensive tape edits, and Suzuki's idiosyncratic vocalisms.
Tago Mago was followed by Ege Bamyasi (1972), a more accessible but still avant-garde record which featured the catchy "Vitamin C" and the Top 40 German hit "Spoon." Next was Future Days (1973), an unassuming but quietly complex record which represents an early example of ambient music and is perhaps the band's most critically successful record. Also included on this album was the refreshingly unexpected pop song "Moonshake".
Suzuki left soon after the recording of Future Days to marry his German wife and become a Jehovah's Witness, and the vocals were taken over by Karoli and Schmidt[7]. Both were competent but not especially memorable singers, especially when compared to Mooney's demented energy or Suzuki's freewheeling charm. However, in 1973 and 1974 in particular, the vocals became much less important than the overall sound as Can found themselves experimenting with ambient music for the first time.
[edit]Later years: 1974-1979

Soon Over Babaluma (1974)
Soon Over Babaluma from 1974 continued in the ambient style of Future Days, though regaining some of the abrasive edge of Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi. In 1975 Can signed to Virgin Records in the UK and EMI/Harvest in Germany. The albums Landed (1975) and Flow Motion (1976) saw Can moving towards a somewhat more conventional style as their recording technology improved. Accordingly, the disco single "I Want More" from Flow Motion became their only hit record outside of Germany.
In 1977 Can were joined by former Traffic bassist Rosko Gee and percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah, both of whom provided vocals to Can's music, appearing on the albums Saw Delight (1977), Out of Reach (1978) and Can (1979). During this period Holger Czukay was pushed to the fringes of the group's activity; in fact he just made sounds using shortwave radios, morse code keys, tape recorders and other sundry objects. He left Can in late 1977 and did not appear on the albums Out Of Reach or Can, although he did do some production work on the latter album. Can disbanded shortly afterwards, but reunions have taken place on several occasions since.
[edit]After the split and reunion: 1980 onwards

Rite Time (1989)
Since the split, all the former members have been involved in musical projects, often as session musicians for other artists. In 1986 they briefly reformed, with Mooney but without Suzuki, to record Rite Time (released in 1989). There was a further reunion in 1991 to record a track for the Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World, and Can have since been the subject of numerous compilations, live albums and samples.
In 1999 the four core members of Can, Michael Karoli, Jaki Liebezeit, Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay, performed live at the same show, although playing seperately with their current solo projects (Sofortkontakt, Club Off Chaos, Kumo and U-She respectively). Michael Karoli died on 17 November 2001 after a long battle with cancer. In 2004, the band began an ongoing series of Super Audio CD remasters of its back catalog, which were finished in 2006.
Holger Czukay has recorded several ambient albums and collaborated with David Sylvian among others, Jaki Liebezeit has played in a drum ensemble called Drums of Chaos and in 2005 with the Artist Datenverarbeiter the online-album Givt[8]. Michael Karoli recorded a reggae album with Polly Eltes before his passing, and Irmin Schmidt has begun working with the acclaimed drummer Martin Atkins, producing a remix for the industrial band The Damage Manual, and a cover of Banging the Door for a Public Image Ltd tribute album, both released on Atkins' label, Invisible Records.
Damo Suzuki returned to music in 1983, and since then he has been playing live improvisational shows around the world with local musicians and members of touring bands at various points, sometimes issuing live albums. Malcolm Mooney recorded an album as singer for the band Tenth Planet in 1998. Rosko Gee has been the bassist in the live band on Harald Schmidt's TV show in Germany since 1995. The Can DVD claims that Reebop died in 1982, although many other sources suggest that he is still alive and performing music under the name Remi Kabaka [9] and has worked in 2004 with Gorillaz[10].

The diversity of the music of Can owes a lot to its equally eclectic influences. Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt were both pupils of Karlheinz Stockhausen. This meant that the early Can inherited a strong grounding in his musical theory, with the latter being trained as a classical pianist. Michael Karoli, in turn, was a pupil of Holger Czukay, and brought the influence of gypsy music through his esoteric studies. Drummer Jaki Liebezeit had strong jazz leanings.
Another important early influence was ethnomusicology: the band's sound was originally intended to be based more on the sound of ethnic music, so when the band decided to pick up the garage rock sound, original member David Johnson left the band. This world music trend was later more clearly exemplified on albums such as Ege Bamyasi (the name meaning "Aegean okra"), Future Days and Saw Delight, and by incorporating new band members with different nationalities. A series of tracks on Can albums, known as "Ethnological Forgery Series", abbreviated to "E.F.S", demonstrated the band's ability to successfully recreate ethnic-sounding music.
The band's early influences in rock included The Beatles and The Velvet Underground [11] as well as Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and Frank Zappa [12]. The band have admitted that the beginning of Can's "Father Cannot Yell" was inspired by the end of The Velvet Underground's "European Son". Malcolm Mooney's voice has been compared to that of James Brown and their early style, rooted in psychedelic music, drew comparisons with Pink Floyd. Along with their peers in the krautrock scene, they were under the influence of the wider progressive rock movement taking place in England and elsewhere during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Damo Suzuki was a very different sort of singer from Mooney: his multi-lingual (he claimed to sing in "the language of the Stone Age"), often inscrutable vocal style added the missing ingredient to a set of playful pop songs. With Suzuki, the band made their most well known albums, and the rhythm section's work on Tago Mago has been especially praised: one critic writes that much of the album is based on "long improvisations built around hypnotic rhythm patterns" [13]; another writes that "Halleluhwah" finds them "pounding out a monster trance/funk beat" [14].
The band's post-Damo Suzuki period is often criticised for not being groundbreaking and genre-defining like the earlier albums: although critics had praised Can's sound in the early 1970s as being ahead of its time, the band just used a two track recorder until the release of Landed in 1975. However, they do try out styles they hadn't done before: Landed sees them influenced by glam rock, Flow Motion by reggae, Saw Delight and Out of Reach by world music again, and the guitar of Carlos Santana.
[edit]Subsequent influence
Major artists such as The Fall, Public Image Ltd., The Mars Volta, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Joy Division and The Stone Roses have cited Can as an influence. Brian Eno made a short film in tribute to Can, while John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers appeared at the Echo Awards ceremony, at which Can were awarded the most prestigious music award in Germany,[15] to pay tribute to guitarist Michael Karoli.
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), formerly of the Sex Pistols, formed Public Image Limited patterned after Can's early 1970s five member lineup. Lydon wanted to join Can in 1979 as the group decided to disband. During their Kid A tour, Radiohead performed a cover of the song "Thief" from Delay 1968. Mark E. Smith of The Fall pays tribute to Damo Suzuki with the track "I Am Damo Suzuki" on the 1985 album This Nation's Saving Grace. Three notable bands have named themselves in tribute to Can; The Mooney Suzuki for Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki; the indie rock band Spoon after the hit "Spoon"; the electronic band Egebamyasi, formed by Scottish musician Mr Egg in 1984, after Can's album Ege Bamyasi. The Scottish writer Alan Warner, born in Oban in 1964, has written two novels in tribute to two different Can members (Morvern Callar to Holger Czukay and The Man Who Walks to Michael Karoli respectively).
The Sacrelige remix album features remixes of Can tracks by artists who were influenced by Can, including Sonic Youth and U.N.K.L.E..[16]
Their ethnomusicological tendencies pre-date the craze for world music in the 1980s. While not nearly as influential on electronic music as Kraftwerk, they were important early pioneers of ambient music, along with Tangerine Dream and the aforementioned band. Many groups working in the post-rock genre can look to Can as an influence as part of the larger krautrock scene.
[edit]Improvisation, recording and live shows
Much of Can's music was based on free improvisation and then edited into a palatable format for the studio albums. For example, when preparing a soundtrack, only Irmin Schmidt would view the film and then give the rest of the band a general description of the scenes they would be scoring. This assisted in the improvised soundtrack being successful both inside and outside the film's context. [17] Also, the epic track "Cutaway" from Unlimited Edition demonstrates how tape editing and extensive jamming could be used to create a sound collage that doesn't gel perfectly, and that the flashes of genius in the improvisation needed to be cut from long, unconsolidated recordings.
Can's live shows often melded spontaneous improvisation of this kind with songs appearing on their albums. The track "Colchester Finale", appearing on the Can Live album, incorporates portions of "Halleluhwah" into a composition lasting over half an hour. Early concerts found Mooney and Suzuki often able to shock audiences with their unusual vocal styles, as different as they were from one another: Suzuki's debut performance with Can in 1970 nearly frightened an audience to the point of rioting due to his odd style of vocalizing. David Niven, of Pink Panther fame, was amongst the crowd who remained to hear what Can and Damo would do next. There is a legend that during live shows, the band could focus their energy on playing to the extent that it could make certain members of the audience vomit. After the departure of the Suzuki, the music grew in intensity without a vocal center, and the band maintained their ability to collectively improvise with or without central themes for hours at a time (their longest performance was in Berlin that lasted over six hours), resulting in a large archive of performances.
Can made attempts to find a new vocalist after the departure of Damo Suzuki, although no one quite fit the position. In 1975, folk singer Tim Hardin took the lead vocal spot with Can for one song, performing his own "The Lady Came From Baltimore". Malaysian Thaiga Raj Raja Ratnam played three dates with the band in March of 1976, only one of which was recorded. Another such vocalist, Englishman Michael Cousins, toured with Can in April, 1976. Audience members disapproved of his presence and literally spat at him while on stage. There are only three recordings of Cousins performing with the band, all from April of 1976.


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