Originally part 10 of my Krautrock series


 

 

CAN – ‘Soundtracks’ cover. 1970.


CAN managed to require some reasonable levels of success with their debut album Monster Movie – well they at least marked their territory and caused some ripples in the underground scene.

An upheaval was in progress, and with it came a change in the line-up.

The beat poet troubadour Malcolm Mooney was slowing losing his mind in West Germany: his ever-outlandish behaviour began to draw some concern from  the rest of the group. One legendary performance saw Mooney turn up late only to take the mic and repeat the same refrain of ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ for over three hours continuously, even in the bands break, and when they’d almost packed up for the night he still relentlessly continued the incantation. Eventually an exhausted Mooney collapsed to the stage floor with mouth frothing and a wild-eyed look of a man possessed, sparkling in his eyes.

Another raving incident, which sounds more like a jolly jape then serious sign of insanity, took place at an opening in a Munich art gallery for the French Nouveau Realist artist Arman, whose assemblage sculptures made from junk and pop cultures throwaway debris were very much the vogue. Mooney decided that the openings stuffy reception, full of dealers and art world well to dos, needed an injection of spontaneity. He would pretend to be some kind of auctioneer and started to sell off the artists work for silly money. Chaotic scenes ensued as those present began throwing money at Mooney and scrambling to walk off with their new purchases.

Hastily our jester was bundled away by Schmidts wife Hildegaard – who would take on the role of manager and basically mother the band – into a waiting car, his pockets full of change.

New York soon beckoned for Mooney, his psychiatrist favouring a return to a more familiar environment and a hiatus away from his German band mates.

During this turbulent time he managed to lay down vocals to a number of tracks, which would appear on both the Soundtracks and the Unlimited Edition albums.

There was of course also the Delay LP which was originally meant to be the bands first release instead of the more friendly Monster Movie. The record label decided that it was just too raw for their taste and it was shelved right up until 1981; only 13 years late!

A sudden void opened up in the group halting any recording for a number of months, the question of direction now becoming a concern.

Eventually financial difficulties soon put paid to sitting around brooding, and a kick up the arse prompted the band to look at bringing in some dough.

The worlds of avant-garde free-form music and the burgeoning new German cinema soon crossed: in Munich the feature auteur Michael Fassbender was part of the Amon Duul entourage, filming them on regular occasions.

CAN soon found themselves rubbing shoulders with the young guard in film making though they generally received mostly commissions for both b-movie kitsch and debatable movies of dubious artistic quality.

In fact most of the work on the Soundtracks album would have to wait until much later to be used on any real quality production: the celebrated director Wim Wenders of ‘Paris, Texas’ and ‘Wings Of Desires’ fame, used ‘She Brings The Rain’ on his 1994 film ‘Lisbon Story’.

The answer to a now singer free CAN was soon rectified when a chance meeting with a roaming Japanese vagabond resulted in Mooney’s replacement question being answered.

Czukay and Liebezeit happened upon their new addition to the ranks when taking a spare break from their four-night engagement as the interlude band for a play taking place in Munich. Outside a café in the city they spotted Damo Suzuki attempting to busk with a shamanistic trance like chant performance, suddenly Czukay knew this was their man, though a horrified Liebezeit questioned his motives for asking this peculiar figure who didn’t even know a word of German, to join their band.

Damo himself seemed hesitant to the exact intentions of these strange musicians that now offered him solace in their band.

Thrown in at the deep end, Damo found himself signing that very night, his debut saw this at first coiled spring slowly begin to lose his reserved delicate state and breakout like a loon, induced to leap into the unknown. Czukay would compare him to a reverent Samurai.

Initiation ceremonies over and Damo was invited into the inner sanctum of the CAN studios, at first his trepidation in a suddenly more constrained environment caused a shy nervousness.

Like a stroppy teenager he began to complain and revert to a mumbling mess before under duress he found his inspiration and laid down his first ever-recorded vocal, that track was ‘Don’t Turn The Light On, Leave Me Alone’, which became part of the Soundtracks album.

Things must have gone well as Damo managed to stay around until 1974 with the release of Future Days, before he married his German girlfriend and converted to being a Jehovah’s Witness. For some reason he had to give up music because of these new found beliefs though he subsequently soon went back to performing in the Eighties and to this day still goes out on the road playing improvised tunes to anyone who wants to listen.

Damo also recorded vocals for three other tunes from the film score LP, the tracks ‘Deadlock’, ‘Tango Whiskyman’ and the free wheeling behemoth ‘Mother Sky’. The man he replaced, the rehabilitating Malcolm Mooney, lent his vocals to both ‘She Brings The Rain’ and ‘Soul Desert’.

The Soundtracks album is really a compilation that packages together an array of scattered tracks in one handy format.

You could say it was a breather or a stopgap on the way to the release of their highly acclaimed Tago Mago LP, the actual proper follow up to Monster Movie.

In fact this album has more in common with the sound snippets and music collage collection known as Unlimited Edition, which bundled together a lot of cutting room floor material and some even more experimental musings that didn’t quite make it onto any of the seminal releases – sometimes these tracks push the goodwill I have in the band to strenuous proportions, especially with some of the more tenuis EFS series of soundbites.

Each track found here was used to varying degrees of success, with the first three tracks being used on the Roland Klick low budget schlock of a spaghetti western pastiche, ‘Deadlock’.

Filmed in the Jordan deserts near the boarder of Israel for cost purposes, the seven-day war was actually in progress at that time as well just to add mayhem to production, this attempt at a thriller of sorts falls way short of the tension and drama of a Sergio Leone movie.

The music truly was the best thing about this dud, forgettable, film.

‘Don’t Turn The Light On, Leave Me Alone’ was used on the rather lavishly Greek mythical hero named director Leonidas Capitanos film, ‘Cream’, which started out intentionally with artistic beginnings but transcended into what some would call a skin flick.

Leonidas went on to direct such notable greats as ‘Fletch Lives’ and ‘Gumball Rally’.

‘Soul Desert’ found itself as the theme to the controversial ‘Madchen Mit Gewalt’ otherwise affectionately translated as ‘Love By Rape’. No wait, it gets better. The story revolves around two male friends who share the same sexual perpetuity for getting off, namely they have to share the same girl and watch.

A veritable threesome of dubious intents is set up with a game girlfriend, who at first agrees to the ménage trios but decides she doesn’t actually like one of the pair and rebukes his advances.

Rape and an eventual brawl result in tears as one of the two men is left for dead. File under challenging viewing.

CAN seem to have attracted a certain genre of film score work, one that fringes on the pornographic and surreal, this continues with the use of ‘Mother Sky’.

The calling card epic, that is still probably their best ever track, found its way onto the respected Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski film ‘Deep End’. This tale of woe introduces us to a 15-year-old boy who takes a job at the local public bathes. A journey of sexual adolescent awaking soon sends the lads mind round the bend as elderly women and house wives soon ask for a certain kind of rub down, if you get my drift.

He soon becomes fixated with a young woman who befriends him, played by English rose and stalwart Jane Asher in an early role. It becomes apparent that she has her own murky back-story and is a stripper in some seedy Soho like club. Soon our protagonist takes on the role of a lovelorn stalker, watching her every move until a showdown in the bathes ends in a literal proverbial blood-bath.

For fans of trivia, Skolimowski recently appeared in the David Cronenberg film ‘Eastern Promises’ as the character Stepan and has been a respected writer.

Moving on we come to the last track ‘She Brings The Rain’ that made its way onto the obscure movie ‘Bottem’, directed by the equally obscure Thomas Schanoni. I have drawn blank on this one, any information being almost non-existent, suffice to say from the title it may have just the tinniest chance of featuring something lewd.

The album artwork features a bulbous magnifying photo blow-up shot of a set of film reels, all featuring shots from the movies that the music was used on. Around the sides are dotted the film titles themselves.

This version is generally the one most people seem to have, most subsequent reissues will usually use it.

Interestingly the version I own seems to be French (thanks to Machineryelf on the Head Heritage forum for that one), the cover featuring rows of film stills all showing the same shot of CAN in the middle of another improvised gig.

On the back is a shot of the now Damo version of the group, all in various hanging out poses in what looks like some abandoned old magnolia painted room, complete with almost middle ages styled alcoves.

There is an enigma like blurb on the back that reads:-

‘CAN SOUNDTRACKS’ is the second album of THE Can but not album no.2’.

It goes on:-

‘CAN SOUNDTRACKS’ means a selection of title songs and soundtracks from the last five movies for which THE CAN wrote the music’.

Kind of nicely sums it all up, though that doesn’t mean your dear chronicler here is redundant by any means.

 

Alternative CAN cover for ‘Soundtracks’, French version.


The Review

United Artists 1970.

Recorded in 1969/70 at Inner Space Studios.

 

 

Side A.

1. Deadlock     (3:25)

2. Tango Whiskyman     (4:02)

3. Deadlock (Instrumental)     (1:40)

4. Don’t Turn The Light On, Leave Me Alone     (3:42)

5. Soul Desert     (3:46)

 

Side B.

1. Mother Sky     (14:30)

2. She Brings The Rain     (4:04)

 

 

Personal:-

 

Holger Czukay – Bass & Double Bass

Michael Karoli – Guitar and Violin

Jaki Liebezeit – Drums, Percussion and Flute

Irmin Schmidt – Keyboards & Synthesizers

Malcolm Mooney – Vocals on tracks A5 & B2

Damo Suzuki – Vocals on tracks A1,2,4 & B1

 

 

A dark sinister rumble of toms and a nod in the direction of CAN’s most inspired influence, the Velvet Underground, introduces the very first lamented strains of new boy Damo Suzuki.

His cries for help and anguish are evident in this the theme to a series of Leone shifty eyed hand wringing scenes. Deadlock a movie so cheap it can’t even steal other people’s films well, though a dose of this tormented number may go some way to injecting some class. Soon Damo reaches into the very pit of his stomach to retrieve a torturous swan song, it’s as if he’s acting out some kind of penance.  The backing morosely emphasis the tone with Karolis straining and pleading guitar sounding like it’s being throttled alive, whilst Czukay and his bubbling under the radar bass-lines caress every nuance in the melody.Liebezeit thrashes out a backbeat of double kick drums as Schmidt skulks in the background, his muted keyboards taking on the guise of Norte Dame Cathedral’s organ.

Glumly the song is brought to an end as Damo runs out of woe and our Visigoth backing band decide enough is enough and draw proceedings to a close.

‘Tango Whiskyman’ has the rolling heavy bass drum intro that only Liebezeit could deliver before Damo and his jamboree infused pleasant vocals add to the now jaunty grooves with lines like, ‘Why don’t you delicate’ and ‘Can you hear me my friends’.

A continuous funked up break beat force drives us to an unceremonious fade out.

Deadlock is reprised in the form of a quick 1:40 instrumental, this time round Karoli let’s rip with his insane effects pedal ridden guitar solo, which seems to have escaped from the local sanatorium.

Intense drums in the fashion of some religious cult beat out a cacophony death march, or the procession to an ancient funeral pyre ritual long forgotten.

It all sounds like its been recorded in some abandoned industrial unit in Stalin era Russia or a jumbo sized corridor.

‘Don’t Turn The Light On, Leave Me Alone’ has an apprehensive and reserved start; Damo possibly not comfortable with the experience of recording gingerly gives it a go but meaty cuts of bass and drums almost drown out anything our street urchin has to sing, though he pierces through the heavy bombardment with the odd scream.

A floating flute gives it the air of some tripped out indulgence that evokes the sounds of the Hunter Davis film ‘Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush’ and the soundtrack by the Spencer Davis Group. They almost completely wig out with a slice of farce induced risqué that probably captured the film ‘Cream’ very well, lending it a dash of kudos which it probably doesn’t deserve.

‘Soul Desert’ welcomes back the much-missed voice of Mooney, his rasping and strained repetitive refrain masked in effortless New York hip. The gasping for air perfectly conjures up a scene of crawling through a desert wasteland searching for the old allegorical thirst quencher, not for the throat but the soul itself.

The boys play a workman like brooding building back up track where everyone relentlessly moves forward to the same destination, they gather a certain steamroller momentum towards the pathos steeped finale. Every bar is accompanied by a metallic sounding phrase, Liebezeit tapping a scaffold tube perhaps?

Again as if in homage to the darker side of the tracks we find this to be in the vain of the good old Velvet Underground, the dirge and trudging pomp evocative particularly of the seedier moodier New Yorkers.

Side two gives us no chance to pause, as ‘Mother Sky’ lets rip, no introductions or preliminary just straight into the rolling hurtling goliath of a track.

Already just a minute in and I feel like an interloper, the impression is made that we’ve opened the door in the middle of party that’s already warmed up and finished off all the beers and drugs just leaving us holding the door knob in wide eyed wonder.

Karoli with his wailing banshee let loose guitar playing manages to frog leap Hendrix in the finger gymnastic stakes, his free from set of acrobatics seem jaw dropping in bravado as he makes not only this track but the album his.

Every inspiring guitarist should forget ever sounding this good, no man on Earth could possibly follow someone who was obviously a visitor from another universe. Take note you Horrors, come up with your own tune next time, we know you ripped this hoping anyone under 21 would never pick up a CAN record and turnaround and state the obvious – hey your tunes sound just like theirs!

Let’s not forget the bass lines of course, Czukay juggles the octaves and interjects scale runs, always driving the tune forward and not letting a single note get away.

Schmidt oscillates pure galactic inspired soundscapes and unworldly swirling synth lines that beautifully emphases the cosmic feel of the track.

Liebezeit kicks his toms to death whilst blasts of drum theatrics explode like the greatest sounding exciting jams you’ll ever hear.

Soon Damo begins his incantations as the backing takes a sudden dip and calms down to a mere maelstrom. An almost inaudible murmuring voice coated with some strange cabalist wrapped holy man singing in tongues ensues.

Karoli is parachuted in and allowed to now completely let loose on the song, it sounds like a battle of wills is taking place between the man and his instrument, who will crack first.

Halfway into this astral freeway journey a brief respite gives Damo a solo of sorts with a cooing breakdown; the only accompaniment is a lone hand-drum, which slowly builds up until all hell is unleashed.

‘Paint It Black’ as never envisaged rolls on via an atomic blast. Shrieking and screaming sounds compete as CAN kick the shit out of the MC5 and Stooges, yeah they may bring switchblades to the party but the Germans bring machine guns.  You soon realise that 14 minutes isn’t nearly long enough in the presence of the best ever assembled band in history, do yourselves a favour and play this on permanent rotation for the next two weeks.Following on from the quasi three part mini free form opera is the sultry and low key ‘She Brings The Rain’, a jazz number direct from some smoked filled backroom of a cellar club or a laid back halcyon drug comedown shindig in a bed-sit.

Mooney sings and croons his way through this lounge core rendition that features such prose’s as ‘She brings the rain, it feels like spring’ and the drug references of ‘Magic mushrooms out of dreams’, a psychedelic haze of a workout.

Czukay lends a smooth double bass twelve bar to the relaxed mood and Schmidt subtly adds a touch of alchemy.

Karoli delivers some deft guitar licks sanctioned by NASA whilst Liebezeit picks up the brushes and fondly travels back to his old former musical heritage – remember he was one of Europe’s most respected jazz drummers before he grew his hair and became a krautrocker.

This comfortable and relaxing outro perfectly grounds us and ends the album on an optimistic and blissfully pleasing finale.

This night out at the movies was brought to us via the freak out and heads down in concentration intensity of a band finding their groove and leaving behind those US influences of the Mothers Of Invention, Hendrix and Grateful Dead. They continue to evoke the spirit of Love and The Doors but we can forgive them that, especially when they do it with such vigour.

One Response to “CAN ‘Soundtracks’”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: