Can – The Lost Tapes (2012)

Share this:

The concept sounds like a bit of a nightmare: an in-depth excursion into the discarded mastertapes of a band known for lengthy, sometimes mind-boggling sound journeys.

The Can formula is in full effect: vocalists Malcolm Mooney and replacement Damo Suzuki ramble oddball lyrics over dense, repetitive grooves. While krautrock was an outlier in the 1970s music scene, Can’s brand was particularly taut, relying on the classical and jazz backgrounds of the band members to keep things in check.

Here, on this set, the feel of the band is looser, and for good reason: Most of this material is comprised of studio jams, or even just short ideas that were bundled together into musical pieces. But this is what the band did in the studio in the first place — jam, jam, and jam some more, then sift through it looking for the best bits to use in the final pieces, discarding the rest. It’s pure luck, it seems, that anything of value even to the band is remaining. The amazing thing is that it’s a treasure trove for fans, too.

It’s a daunting set, to be sure. Three full discs, well over three hours, of what could be considered mostly “new” material that had been hiding away in well-maintained storage for nearly 40 years. Can keyboardist Irmin Schmidt and son-in-law Jono Podmore functioned as editors of a vast store of tapes that eventually amounted to about 50 hours of music, which they honed and polished into the three discs presented here.

The great thing here is that, unlike most “archives” releases, this can be enjoyed by almost anyone who has already set foot in the Can waters. Obviously, die-hards will want this set to hear primitive versions of favorite songs (most are so primitive as to be relatively unrecognizable), but newbies shouldn’t be put off by the thought of all this “lost tapes” stuff. It’s simply another avenue of Can to explore, another angle of Can that hadn’t really been exposed. And if you’re entirely new, well, this might seem a really overwhelming place to start — but a fascinating one, as well. Where better to explore from whom your favorite bands of today (Radiohead, Portishead, Flaming Lips) have been lifting inspiration.

A couple of notes: this is one set not to skip the physical release for possibly cheaper, “easier” mp3 release. You want the liner notes, which go a long ways to explain as much about each track as possible, as well as how the band worked back then, and how Schmidt and Podmore put this set together. Missing out on this will have you missing interesting little stories, like how “Waiting For The Streetcar” was conceived at an exhibition, the lyric inspired by one departing guest who was, you guessed it, “waiting for the streetcar.” Think about this when listening to the entire ten minute long tune and wonder about those guests — those four words are almost the only words. Strange party.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B0080R7P8A” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B008817X3A” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B0011WMHRA” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B008817X4O” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B002T921QG” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /]

Oh, and a final caveat: This is not a box you will want to carry with you anywhere. It’s a beautiful set, don’t get me wrong. Packaged in a thick cardboard clamshell that replicates old tape boxes that Can used to use, inside you’ll find the previously mentioned 28-page booklet and, if you’re like me and many others who’ve bought this set, you’ll find a couple of discs floating free, or maybe all three. n the bottom of the box is a nice looking idea: three cutouts for the CDs to sit in, each with a small lip to hold them. Except they don’t. Give the box a shake and out they come. Those discs will be scratched in no time if this set is used as any kind of transportation for the set. But is that a concern these days? Don’t these things just go up on shelves now? I’m still a bit miffed, regardless – a simple little hub to center and hold the discs would have sufficed.

Share this:
Close