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Can - Future Days CD (album) cover





4.08 | 540 ratings

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4 stars The first couple of times I listened to this, I thought that somebody must have given a triple hit of warm cream to the coffee of all the band members during the sessions. The rhythmic, hyper spazz tendencies that we've grown to know and love from the band are condensed into a single three-minute burst, called "Moonshake." Of course, it's really great, being catchy-as-a-cold and blessed with an instrumental break where Schmidt pulls out as many goofy noises as he can and what-not, but it really feels out of place. I'll tell you what, though, I'm not complaining about the presence of a track as great as this one, even if it might have been nicer if it had been on Ege Bamyasi ...

The rest of the album, though, is not quite like what we'd gotten from the band before. It's not dramatically different, of course; the main schtick of the band is still lengthy, very rhythmic instrumental jamming with Damo muttering goodness-knows-what on top from time to time. However, where Damo was critical to the sound before, here he almost sounds like an afterthought, albeit a very pleasant and nice afterthought. A similar reduction, though not as drastic, occurs in the role of Jaki; he's still the foundation of the sound, yes, but he never really stands out as the dominant feature like he often tended to in the past. That's not necessarily a terrible thing, though; "Pinch" was pretty close to a nine- minute Damo-Jaki duet, and I wasn't the biggest fan of that one, after all.

This reduction in Jaki's and Damo's roles doesn't really lead to a corresponding increase in the importance of any of the other band members individually, though (maybe Schmidt could be said to be boosted, though his presence is as much in atmosphere as in anything else). Heck, if you're looking for analogies, this could almost be considered the Murmur of the Krautrock world (yes, I know that Murmur came out a decade later), in that everybody is turned down in the mix enough for everybody to contribute to an ensemble sound that's that much stronger than the sum of its parts. This is hands down the prettiest album Can would ever make, and a wonderful tribute to the great power that can be achieved from well-placed restraint and subtlety.

It's so pretty, actually, that I can easily give it a high **** rating despite being slightly unsure of how to describe the other tracks themselves. I'll try regardless, though. The opening title track begins with all sorts of lovely (and occasionally somewhat disturbing) ambient noises, and then the drums rise up quietly and slowly, with a sort of "brushing" sound laid on top of them, and then the rest of the band slowly kicks in and Damo sings a playful melody repeatedly (after coming out of having his vocals completely encoded). There are some guitar and synth passages that sound like everything from later King Crimson to Radiohead, there are some passages where Damo sings loudly through some device that makes him sound uncannily like Mark E. Smith of The Fall would often sound later, and it just stays in an ultra-hypnotic groove that never lets up in all of its nine-and-a-half minutes.

"Spray" has the band going into a real "sci-fi" mode, with electronically-treated (I guess) "hollow" drums complementing all sorts of unnerving synth sounds and low-key guitar lines for about six minutes before something resembling a "song" pops up. The actual song part, fortunately, is nearly as good as the part leading up to it, if only because it provides a nice contrast to the relative "fury" of the first passage without entirely letting go of the tension of it. Karoli is the quiet star of this passage, but Damo gives a nice soft texture to it as well.

After the brief diversion of "Moonshake," we hit the main attraction, the twenty minute (almost on the dot) suite, "Bel Air." If you think that all Ambient music is a put-on made by uncreative lazy people (which definitely does not describe me, mind you), but are interested in at least seeing where it came from and if it ever had a resemblence to "good" music, this should definitely be one of your first stops. Suzuki puts on one of his best ever performances in terms of beauty, taking on quite a few vocal melodies, and the band complements him (well, I guess it's the other way around, whatever) with quite a few different grooves throughout. There are several stunning moments of beauty, many coming from assorted quiet Karoli lines, many from the sounds Schmidt puts out, and many just from the way it all comes together. It ... it all kinda works for me the same way "The Revealing Science of God" or "The Remembering" work for me on Yes' TFTO, but I can easily see somebody who dislikes those still enjoying these (and come to think of it, this album came out a few months before Tales, and there are a lot of synth sounds here that sound like Wakeman could have appropriated them ... hmm). One thing the piece doesn't have is any clear structure, but that works to its benefit in this case; it's set up in such a way that ever thinking "shouldn't this be ending at some point?" should not really cross one's mind, because the atmosphere it creates isn't really one that has anything to do with time or space as we know it.

Sheesh, I like this album. Were it not for the fact that this is probably best listened to as background music (some of the best background music ever written), I might give it an even higher grade.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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