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Can - Soon Over Babaluma CD (album) cover

SOON OVER BABALUMA

Can

 

Krautrock

3.60 | 141 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars In theory, after he had such a (relatively) limited role on Future Days, the departure of Suzuki shouldn't have had such an influence on the band's quality, yet here I am, giving this album a lower rating than its predecessor. I mentioned back in my Soundtracks review that (paraphrasing) the band sounded totally revitalized once it had injected Damo into its bloodstream, and unfortunately it seems that him leaving had the inverse effect on the group. There's a tentative feel to these tracks that's ever so bothersome to me, not in the least limited to the vocals (the vocals don't really bother me at all, actually), and it confirms to me that the band couldn't really go anywhere but down from here on out, even if they don't actually sound bad by any reasonable definition.

The first two tracks, to be fair, are quite nice. The opener, "Dizzy Dizzy," is kinda in the same "spacey" vein as the quieter stuff on the last vein, with a bunch of violin passages sliding around a low-key, almost bouncy rhythm. The vocals, done by Karoli in a manner completely unlike anything Damo would have ever done, are mostly built around him whispering/chanting, "Got to get it-it up, got to get it-it over" again and again, punctuated by an occasional chant of the title of the song. It really matches the atmosphere of the cover, I think; I can easily see myself flying along that landscape with this in the background.

The following track, "Come Sta, La Luna," features Schmidt on vocals (he's mildly grating when he sings the title, but it kinda works here), mostly with him muttering over yet another clever, hypnotic rhythmic pattern. There's an awful lot of un-altered piano here, especially for a Can album, and it gives a feeling of depth to the sound that, in conjunction with the usual dose of odd noises, really milks the "spacey" vibe these guys are going for quite well. So far, so good.

However, we then hit Splash, which is the first time in a while that Can sound, dare I say it, truly uninspired. What it reminds me of most, actually, is the beginning of the middle section of "Trilogy" by ELP, where Emerson spends a good couple of minutes wanking over a pattern almost identical to the one here. The violin, guitar and keyboard passages here are technically solid, yes, but for a band whose main calling card has been doing jams of a kind that nobody else in the world could properly imitate, mere technical prowess is simply not enough. It's not bad, but not particularly special. Similarly, the 11-minute "Chain Reaction" is rhythmic in a way that isn't anything new, and while all these dancey guitar lines work well with the drums in creating a proto-techno effect, and while there are some bits of vaguely melodic groove near the end, it just doesn't come together into something I can get excited about.

And then there's "Quantum Physics," which isn't nasty but sounds like an outtake from the Future Days sessions. I do like how the drums kinda move up and down in the mix (mostly staying incredibly quiet, of course), and I like the overall feel and the way the synths sound, but I'm kinda disappointed that there aren't any moments of sheer beauty like in, say, "Bel Air." It's nice and futuristic-sounding and all that, but there's just not that extra something that has made me like the band's previous work as much as I have.

Still, it's a nice enough album, just not an especially essential one. If you really, really dig on Future Days and the "cosmic" sound and atmosphere of that one, you'll want this one, and somebody looking to get into post-Damo Can will probably be best off going with this one first. Don't get your expectations up too high, though.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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