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Can - Tago Mago CD (album) cover

TAGO MAGO

Can

 

Krautrock

3.93 | 450 ratings

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Negoba
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Kraut-tripping in the Can

I've tried to dip my toes into all the subcategories here at PA, and the last little pond to cool my toes has been Krautrock. I picked up a few of the usual suspects a few months ago and the first was Can's TAGO MAGO. This has been offered up as a prototypical Krautrock album and to be certain, all of the signature elements seem to be here. A slap-happy white swing propels this trippy music, loosening the effects-laden sound into a freakish dance that looks forward to underground dance ideas in more recent decades.

Like all dance music, the beats are quite repetitive and the harmony / melody quite simple. So how did this get associated with prog? Because Krautrock seems to be first and foremost about timbre, sound, texture, and some quite amazing experimentation happens in these German hands and feet. As a musician who has done my share of playing with the knobs on equipment, all the little weird noises that you thought would never fit into real music seem to work in this style. Remarkably, it's not gaudy or overdone. It's just an element in the freak out feel.

The main vibe I get from this music is late 60's art scene. This is the kind of music I imagine playing at Andy Warhol's parties, what the abstract visual artists would have used to create a surreal universe to present their work. As one can imagine from that scene, three decades later, the music comes off with more than its share of kitsch. The songs are long, meandering jams that really are about atmosphere but have absolutely no sense of destination. There is minimal tension and release, no choruses, no themes, just groove and texture. In fact, some later tracks also dispense with the groove, becoming noisy meditations.

At the heart of this music are some things that typically don't appeal to me. The lo-fi ethic, the repetitive, straightforward drums, the lack of harmonic complexity. This is not something that a traditional symphonic prog fan is going to like very much. Like proto-Beck without the economy or songwriting abilities, this is a self-consciously hip music. It certainly blazes its own trail but is just coming from a different part of the soul than my musician's taste does.

As background music at a theme party, this could be perfect. Without a doubt, there are some very cool noises on this record. When I'm in certain whacked-out moods, I do reach for this occasionally. (I reach for my single Ash Ra Tempel album more frequently though). For me, it's a 2-3 star novelty.

Negoba | 2/5 |

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