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Can - Future Days  CD (album) cover

FUTURE DAYS

Can

 

Krautrock

4.00 | 360 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
5 stars "Summer afternoon." wrote Henry James, "to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." That's a debatable point (personally, my money's on "play ball", which says pretty much the same thing), but for the purposes of this forum the two most beautiful words might arguably be "Future Days", the title of the fourth studio album (not including their 1970 "Soundtracks" compilation) by the Krautrock gods of CAN.

Next to the epic "Tago Mago" this is maybe their most complete and organic work: a model of musical grace, subtlety, and near-telepathic rapport. It's certainly the easiest on the ears of all their early, more challenging efforts, but like any true Krautrock classic the album was always worlds away from anything resembling prototypical Prog Rock.

While elsewhere the Emersons and Wakemans of the Prog world were updating Mussorgsky or Brahms, the members of CAN were truly progressing, taking their cues from forward-thinking 20th Century composers like Berio, Ligeti, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Bassist Holger Czukay (who claims, by the way, to be a "true nephew" of William Tell) was actually a student of Stockhausen's in the early 1960s, at the same time his future CAN bandmate Irmin Schmidt was helping introduce the music of John Cage to German audiences.

The CAN philosophy may have followed Bertholt Brecht's famous dictum "art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to smash it". But on "Future Days" the same well-worn hammer was clothed in the plushest velvet. The title track opening the album is a perfect case in point, immersing the listener in 9+ minutes of dreamy rhythms, tentative melodies, and Damo Suzuki's embryonic whispers, less a song than it is a memory of a song, half-heard between sleep and waking.

Up next is "Spray", the warmest and most relaxed of CAN's "instant compositions" (their name for the band's improvisations), although here it reverses the usual formula by gradually coalescing into a legitimate tune, of sorts. Jaki Liebezeit's nervous, skittish rhythms give the track an air of controlled chaos, in the same way that his rock-steady 4/4 drumming acts as an anchor on "Moonshake", to my ears the most ideal pop song ever recorded.

And why is that? Three reasons: 1) it has an AM radio-friendly brevity, clocking in at a mere three minutes. 2) it couldn't be more simple, and yet is almost alarmingly creative, especially during the wacky (but typically understated) percussion mid-section, with everyone taking turns on whistles, rattles, and whatnots, over another patented one- finger bass throb by Czukay. And 3) you can't help tapping your toes to it.

The 20-minute "Bel Air" (one entire side of the original vinyl) does tend to wander a bit, which may explain the band's later dismissal of the entire album as "too symphonic". That's not entirely fair, but the length and tenor of the track certainly point to a more optimistic side of the otherwise subversive Krautrock experience. The title itself, with its echoes of sea breezes, sunny skies, and sailboats dotting the horizon, should clue you in to its sound, while the gradual development and almost offhand resolution make it one of the quietest side-long epics in the greater Prog discography.

Musical beauty is, of course, in the ear of the beholder. But it would be easy to imagine Henry James himself enjoying "Future Days". I can see him now, headphones on, bare feet propped up on his writing table, basking in the lambent heat of an August afternoon and smiling while he tries to decipher what the heck Damo Suzuki is mumbling about.

Neu!mann | 5/5 |

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