ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Can ‘Live In Brighton 1975’
(Spoon/Mute) 3rd December 2021

From the highly experimental and omnivorous German legends, who once proclaimed ‘all gates’ are ‘open’, another ’75 special from the ongoing Can “live” series.

Plagued by gremlins when attempting to record their own concerts, it’s been largely down to the bootleg head community of fans to make this latest series in the Can archive release schedule possible. They couldn’t possibly have known it at the time of course, when smuggling in their rudimental equipment, but these clandestine recordings now form the foundations of this live cannon. Tidied up and processed under the watchful eyes of the group’s only surviving founding member, Irmin Schmidt, but left mostly unedited and flowing (that includes leaving in all the downtime quiet breaks and the audience shout outs: I’m sure that bloke from the previous Stuttgart live volume is back at it again, heckling out “Amon Düül!”), these improvised live recordings capture both a band in a constant state of flux yet still attached to what many Krautrock aficionados would call their “golden period” of the early 70s. In this case, at this time on the live album that means a grand cosmic and drum hurtling transformation of ‘Vitamin C’: the closet it gets to a Can standard. The main guitar riff and shadowing bass, if a bit more languid, and Jaki Liebezeit’s bounce remain but that Ege Bamyasi classic is sucked, vacuumed up into a galloping dark star for this Brighton audience. If you happened to love this version above all other at the time, tough, as they never played the same track in the same way ever again.

It must be pointed out at this stage that there’s no date or venue listed, only that it’s Brighton 1975. I’m sure it’s not the same concert but live versions of ‘Dizzy Dizzy’ and ‘Vernal Equinox’ (both reoccurring Can peregrinations in the live catalogue) appear on the millennial-approaching Can Live Music: 1971-1977 compilation. The lunar, Michael Karoli hushed ‘Dizzy Dizzy’ appears here too, albeit the familiar “Got to get up/Got to get over it” lyrics and essence of the original appear fleetingly, immersed in a climatic star burst of heavy pummelled kick drum, proto-reggae gangly chops (bit of Afro-rock feel too) and bended, mooning solo guitar wanderings. The ridiculously sublime experiment in acid celestial magic ‘Vernal Equinox’ also appears in various altered states; unleashed in a solar rock jam that also puts out feelers to the daemonic psychedelic parts of Tago Mago and takes on the more outlandish freeform live playing of ELP and a leaderless Miles Davis Band of the whomp, heavy psych jazz era in the 70s. Possibly seen showcased on a 1975 transmission of the Old Grey Whistle Test (if you haven’t viewed that incredible footage, please seek it out) this epic odyssey formed the grand finale of side one on the group’s Landed album, released in the September of 1975.

Although it’s difficult to spot, the Landed album’s signature appears scattered throughout these seven live performances. Landed but also the emergence of the more relaxed swimming and liquid rhythms and bobbing that would be heard on Can’s next studio album proper, Flow Motion, can be detected as sonic bridges, connections to past psychedelic, avant-garde triumphs. You can also hear the resonating reach of Soon Over Babaluma and Future Days in that heady mix: An apparitional glimpse of ‘Bel Air’ here, a Hammond horror mystery from Tago Mago there.

An interesting period in Can’s history is represented in the year when Cologne’s greatest exports released their first album, Landed, for the Virgin label; a stipulation of which resulted in a studio upgrade for the group: more tracks to play with, greater separation, and a better sound quality didn’t necessarily mean better music though. And the studio albums during this period, as excellent as they are in my opinion, seldom make the top five lists of Can triumphs. Yet live, and even without their previous mushroom haiku chanting and wailing vocalist Damo Suzki (leaving the band after laying down vocals on the sublime Future Days album), they could still match their earlier days of exploration, improvised on the stage. 

Here in the Brighton recordings you can hear sonic worlds collide. Proton waves and radiating organ lines from Schmidt’s box of tricks build atmospheres around a stargazing funk (imagine Funkadelic’s mother ship landed in the Inner Space studios) and sonorous and craning, aching ascending Holger Czukay bass lines on the opener (just marked down as the numerical ‘Eins’) whilst a rewired vision of ‘Moonshake’ gets turned on by a more soulful Floyd, reggae and what could be a taste of ‘Hunters And Collectors’.  Telephone dialled bells, generators, haunted fairground creeps and an impressive barrage of drums all get sucked into deep space on the off-script ‘Drei’. Bendy, luminous, transcending and in interstellar overdrive, Can lock-in to their untethered, leaderless sense of place and time; remixing their own ideas in real time whilst probing sonic possibilities and stretching the imagination. The Brighton live tapes prove to be a congruous shadow of the previous Stuttgart recordings, released just a couple of months ago. Yet both live albums spotlight entirely different performances; proving the old Can adage that you never hear the same band twice: a lesson for all musicians. If proof were ever needed of Can’s appeal, venerated worship and incredible musicianship then the Brighton live album will make converts of us all.

The Can Archives on the Monolith Cocktail (Further Reading):

Monster Movie

Soundtracks

Tago Mago

Ege Bamyasi

Future Days

Soon Over Babaluma

Landed

Saw Delight

The Lost Tapes

Live In Stuttgart 1975

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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