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Can - Ege Bamyasi CD (album) cover





3.90 | 408 ratings

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4 stars You know, I could see where this could easily be somebody's favorite Can album. Unlike the two albums immediately preceeding it, there are no obvious low points, and there are certainly real highlights. Further, there's a really heavy dose of "ethnic" rhythms to be found; the "robotic" tendencies Jaki mastered on the last couple of albums have largely given way to "shake your booty" tendencies that he shows he's mastered just as well. Add in that Damo is just as prominent in his eccentric way as ever, and it certainly seems (on paper) that I should be willing to rank this among Can albums as high as Soundtracks, at least.

Here's the thing, though: with the exception of two (possibly three) tracks, I can't help but get the feeling that Can, at this point in time, could have done this album in their sleep. "Sing Swan Song," for instance, may be a perfectly lovely Easternish moody ballad, but after the other moody ballads they'd done on the last two albums, something like this wasn't exactly them stretching themselves. "One More Night" actually comes pretty close to getting the dreaded "filler" tag from me; this may be a rather involved piece of proto-trance meant for background listening, but it's hard for me to treat it as more than background music regardless, even if Damo gives it an edge after a while. "I'm So Green" is a fun piece of robo-ethnic dance pop, and it's interesting to put on once in a while, but it's hardly one of Can's career highlights.

The tracks which bookend the album are both very good, to my ears, but they too don't hit me as as inspired as Can's best work. The opening "Pinch," as cool as it sounds with its jittery ethnic rhythms and its domination by Damo's voice, has a couple of things working against it to keep me from loving it. First is that, while Can has always largely been based around Jaki and Damo, here that emphasis is pressed just a bit too hard, particularly at the expense of Karoli and Schmidt. Karoli's there, but he's buried (though impressive), and even after the nth listen I can't think of any especially strong Schmidt presence. The second characteristic, then, is that I'm not really happy with the structure, or lack thereof, of the piece. "Pinch" really sounds like it could have just been somebody turning on the recording mic for a random ten minute interval in the middle of an hour-long Can jam, and while I can guess that that would make some jump for joy, it makes me a little antsy. I guess I wouldn't be bothered so much, though, if this jam wasn't so one-note in nature; "Halleluwah" and "Mother Sky" had a bazillion cool things happen in their running times, whereas this is, basically, rhythm and rambling for ten minutes. Only Damo muttering the title of the song at the end gives any sense of resolution, and in this case that bugs me. I mean, the track is awesome as background music, but if I try to treat it as serious listening music, it goes down a bit in my ears.

The closing psychedelic number, "Spoon," is closer to being a classic than the other numbers thus far listed, because it manages to sound to me like Can are both stretching themselves a bit and at the same time bothering to actually focus on melody instead of just the rhythm. So help me, I love that little verse melody Damo sings in as close to a normal voice as he can muster, and the way Schmidt's synth noises muck it up (in a good way) does nothing but good for the effect. Of course, Schmidt's "normal" keyboard parts are really nice for some reason I can't put my finger on, and the bits of electronic percussion at the beginning have a neat ethnic sci-fi cool to them, so there you go.

The crux of the album, though, lies in the middle, with a short number ("Vitamin C," 3:34) and a long one ("Soup," 10:25). "Vitamin C" sounds creepy in a way the band hadn't yet managed to pull off (which says something), as Jaki brings back the robo-rhythms to great effect, Damo pulls off a threatening delivery about the danger of "Vitamin C" deficiency, and overall the band manages to take just enough of a step back from its usual perversity to sound cool in an almost normal way. That's a good thing, by the way, if only because of how relatively novel that is for the band; "Vitamin C" is, really, just a very good dark rock song.

"Soup," on the other hand, is Can at their most gloriously noisy and weird and varied, and provides a nice break from the feeling of sleepwalking through much of the rest of the album. The first half is fairly standard from Can, though not really for the album; it starts out quiet, then sees the band enter full screaming jam mode, with Damo bellowing way more than to that point, and with Karoli finally unleashed. And then we get the buildup of synth noises, until we get to the main attraction, which is Damo preaching his stuff over the craziest collection of processed noise that could have possibly existed in the early 70's. Maybe that's why the rest of the album sounds so tame, particularly in Schmidt's contributions; a disproportionate amount of time was probably spent on trying to get that perfect "soup-boiling-over" sound and all of those *blaaaaaaaaaare* noises and what-not.

Now, allow me to be clear; I in no way have an overall dislike for the tracks here that aren't "Vitamin C" or "Soup" (I'm giving this album a ****, for crying out loud). It's just that I can't shake the feeling that they had the capability to make a much better album here than they really did, and that feeling has only solidified in me over time. Regardless, it's a very, very, very good album.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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