Mojo SEPTEMBER 2005 - by Mike Barnes


For the first time on SACD, the beloved Jerry mental men's transitional mid-period.

Can: Future Days / Soon Over Babaluma / Landed / Unlimited Edition

Can's Future Days has attracted its fair share of criticism, not least from members of Can. The whole band thought the drums were mixed too high; drummer Jaki Liebezeit considered it too symphonic; disillusioned vocalist Damo Suzuki decided he didn't want to become a rock star and bailed out. Julian Cope also stopped short of endorsing the album in his book, Krautrocksampler.

Another view is that this is where Can most fully captured an Arcadian vision of kosmiche beauty. The title track certainly fits the description, its mantric groove ebbing and flowing like a sunlit seascape, with Damo at his most wistful. Another highlight, the mesmeric Moonshake, is Can's greatest pop song. But the twenty-minute Bel Air is the great divider, the one Cope referred to as a shambles.

Here Liebezeit's rotating, cyclical drumming is amazing, levitating the listener up to the stratosphere, high alongside Michael Karoli's keening guitar and Irmin Schmidt's jet-stream synth lines. Yes, there's something slightly contrived about the way bassist Holger Czukay edited the piece together, but each individual section is stunning. Previously a rather flat, low-level CD transfer, this vivid remastering at last does the music justice.

By the follow-up, 1974's Soon Over Babaluma, Can were operating as a pulsating groove machine. With Damo gone, Karoli took over vocals, coming out with bizarre proclamations like No good woman, elephant woman on Chain Reaction. Schmidt adds to the track's relentless momentum, karate chopping his keyboards in time with the drums, before it opens out into the vast spaces of Quantum Physics.

Recorded the following year, Landed is less satisfactory. Can had made the leap from four-track to sixteen-track, but with the greater separation they lost some of the organic feel of their best recordings. Vernal Equinox, for example, finds Karoli's shiny guitar lines nearly drowning out the rest of the group. They had a smile on their faces on the capricious pop of Half Past One, but the most successful track is the anomalous Unfinished, a twelve-minute tape collage.

That track would have sounded at home on Unlimited Edition (here incorporating the album Limited Edition), seventy-odd minutes of works in progress, sketches and curiosities from 1968-1975. Rough, flawed and fascinating, this is Can at their most spontaneous, running through weird skanks, cosmic abstractions, soundtrack pieces and fake folk music. As they habitually recorded at their Inner Space studios every day, one can only wonder how much more of this stuff they've got stashed away in the vaults.