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SOON OVER BABALUMA

Can

Krautrock


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corbet
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This was my first CAN album, and although I liked it superficially, I was in for a big surprise when I got "Tago Mago" next. That is to say, this is actually quite a weird album when you consider the rest of their classic-period releases, and shouldn't be lumped in with the rest without a few words of caution (and ultimately, praise). First off, singer Damo Suzuki is gone, and while this shouldn't have changed things too much considering CAN's instrumental nature, things have quite obviously changed! The opening track "Dizzy Dizzy" has an almost reggae-like vibe, and the second song has a weird Latin (or something, you tell me) thing going on. Later in CAN's career we get to see all sorts of quazi-"ethnic" explorations (for better or worse), and it all begins most clearly on this album. So, if you are like I was at one point and just want Tago Mago's in-your-face psychedelic romps over and over again... nope! However, as time went on and I began to sink more deeply into an appreciation of CAN's subtler side (Future Days: best album ever), I revisited Soon Over Babaluma to discover a world of minimalist perfection and icy, alien beauty. Side 2, in particular, is a masterpiece of otherworldy music. "Chain Reaction" and "Quantum Physics" form what is in essence one piece: the first song is the "explicit" half, carried by a steady kick-drum pulse with choppy electronics and blistering guitar solos covering every inch, which all then suddenly drop away to reveal "Quantum Physics," a chilled, shimmering atmosphere of ambient sounds and subtle rhythms, all never departing from the (now implied) core tempo. When the whole thing hits you under the proper circumstances, it's nothing short of musical revelation. The first two tracks are perfect in a lazy, quirky manner, and "Splash" is a delectable CAN jam with breezy keyboard washes and great guitar soloing. Essential music! There is a distinct mood which I have learned to recognize as the "Babaluma mood," and when that moment comes, nothing short of this album (or the few "Babalumas" recorded by other bands) will do.. if you know what I mean...

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Send comments to corbet (BETA) | Report this review (#23279)
Posted Monday, February 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars As with its predecessor, Future Days, this one is more atmospheric, more spacey but also weak in the production department and plagued with sometimes-poor sound (at least on my copy). A characteristic of German Prog sound (or Krautrock) is that most of the records have this unfinished production, raw sound, and unrefined arrangements - in a few words one cannot say that Can, ADII or Ash Ra (and Others...) are keen on over-production. This is sitting fine with me but can be difficult for neo-progheads used to such clean sounding records that reach perfection in the production dept. All of the preceding albums were self-produced and distributed by their own label (I think) and therefore adding up to the musical aesthetics and ethics by these true rebels (Ammon Duul was polit-rock as most late sixties German group were also very leftist activist). This one should get another half-star but the sound dynamics are not a plus here. One can not help but thinking, when looking at the sheer amount of classic records they put out, how successful they might have been if they had used an English production for those.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#23278)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars CAN were always on the cutting edge of avante-garde progressive rock blending heavy ethnic rock with industrial electronic atmospheres in bizarre like extended jam. "Soon Over Babaluma" continues CAN's quest into the land of the ultimate psychedelic space jam without Damo Suzuki's vocals. This album focuses much less on the vocal aspect in Suzuki's absence enabling the lads to innovate some wicked grooves and mind warping landscapes. I personally have always loved CAN's approach to music and find it terribly progressive. Tapestries of violin and guitar are superimposed over the frenzied drumming of Jaki Liebeaeit (who is simply an amazing percussionist), Droned bass accents by band leader Holger Czukay all surrounded by tasty keyboard atmospheric samples. Highlight for me is the combination of epic track "ChainReaction" and last number "Quantum Physics" which bring out arguably the best work of CAN ever. "Soon Over Babaluma" is a wonderful work of art and is regarded by many as the shining moment for CAN.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#23280)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
soundsweird
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars My first Can album, purchased shortly after its release. My friends and I were also listening to Robert Wyatt's "Rock Bottom" and Gong's famous trilogy at the time. When you think about it, all three acts injected a welcome dose of humor into their work. I remember hearing "Future Days" and "Ege Bamyasi" a year or two later, but found them unappealing at the time. I think it's difficult to work backwards with some groups; in the case of Can, you're going from a spacy but polished sound back to a wilder, more primitive style, and it just doesn't work for me. I liked one of the pieces from "Tago Mago" (the one showing the biggest Stockhausen influence), but I could never appreciate Damo Suzuki or Malcolm Mooney at all. Anyway, this album began the string of my favorite Can albums. I love much of their solo material, as well.

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Send comments to soundsweird (BETA) | Report this review (#23281)
Posted Wednesday, March 02, 2005 | Review Permalink
kamilqkla@int
3 stars The most uneven Can's album. Some realy beautyfull works (Come Sta, La Luna (my favourite song from LP, this strange vocal interpretation of Shmidt, and connetion of flamenco and psychodelic rythms gave grat efect), Splash (but it is to long a bit), Chain Reaction (one minus of this is that colourless vocal of Karoli). And there is some avarage sngs - Dizzy, Dizzy and Quantrum Pchysic. That first is preaty good thing withm nice climate but secoud is very boiring. And I just don't undrestand what band thinking when they wos doing that work...

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#23283)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Anyone wanting a deeper understanding of what made CAN such a powerful band, and not only within the narrow circle of classic '70s Krautrock, should ponder the fate of Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki. The two CAN vocalists (not merely "singers", please take note) each had to leave the group at the prompting of a higher authority: Mooney ending up all but chained to the psychiatrist's couch, and Suzuki disappearing within the apocalyptic embrace of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Now, I don't want to suggest that the music had any link with their later mental and / or emotional crises, but clearly this was a band circulating somewhere high above the usual rock 'n' roll circus of sex, drugs, and three-chord boogies.

The first album after Suzuki's abrupt departure found the band, in 1974, reduced to the core of its original quartet: Jaki Liebezeit, Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli, and Irmin Schmidt, playing, respectively (but like the members of GENTLE GIANT, not exclusively), drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards. On paper it looks like a normal enough line-up, but consider their separate backgrounds. Czukay and Schmidt were students of 20th Century avant-garde classical music; Karoli was an early fan of the Beatles; and Liebezeit was schooled in the near-noise of Free Jazz and other arcane ethnic rhythms (including, some whisper, forbidden voodoo drum rituals).

With a combined pedigree like that, it's no wonder CAN was such a musical force of nature. And all those influences were put into play here, in what could have been an unsettling period of transition, but turned out to be a career peak (that same year, they performed an epic, near 13-hour overnight concert in Berlin).

The album opens with the cool German-Jamaican vibe of "Dizzy Dizzy", the first of several flirtations with reggae, more examples of which would surface in the upcoming "Limited" / "Unlimited Edition" albums. "Come Sta, La Luna" sounds not unlike a tour of Fellini's Rome in La Dolce Vita, with Irmin Schmidt's voice (thankfully) masked behind a thick screen of electronic camouflage. And the instrumental "Splash" (a companion of sorts to the likeminded but mellower "Spray", off the previous "Future Days" album) is an absolutely ferocious improvisation in 7/8 time (I think), featuring the distorted sound of Karoli's treated violin, flying like shrapnel around a typically busy Jaki Liebezeit percussion volley.

But all the remaining musical barriers are well and truly broken on the final two tracks: "Chain Reaction" and "Quantum Physics", actually a single, uninterrupted 20- minute tour of inner and outer space. The titles are more literal than you might imagine, recalling an atom-age combo of Edward Teller, Robert Oppenheimer, Max Planck, and Werner Heisenberg (with Einstein calling the tune, of course).

It begins with a hypertense dance groove beamed down from some far-flung alien discotheque, which after ten minutes gradually dissipates into a long, proto-ambient euthanasia chill-out, maybe the best sonic illustration of infinity since Pythagoras first heard the Music of the Spheres. The subtly shifting auroras of Irmin Schmidt's keyboards, with Jaki Liebezeit's quietly percolating electronic percussion, would later spark an entire generation of sound sculptors and high-tech navel gazers (THE ORB, BIOSPHERE, you name 'em). But the original role model, one of several from Germany in the 1970's, is still spellbinding, even allowing for the restrictions of its relatively primitive two-track recording technology.

The album proved to be the last in a cycle of classic CAN recordings dating to before the turn of the decade. The next step would be a contract with Virgin Records, access to multi-track recording facilities, and even a Top-30 hit single two years down the road. All achieved at the expense of their original musical alchemy, say diehard fans. I don't entirely agree, but no one can argue that "Soon Over Babaluma" put the final edge of gilt on an already sterling reputation.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#43383)
Posted Thursday, August 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I find myself looking at the work of Can in a somewhat objective light, rather than an emotional, subjective one...to me, Can can (sic) sometimes put experimentation above listener involvement - and in doing so they could be far more self indulgent than many of the contemporary so-called prog "dinosaurs"; sometimes though they did rise to produce great music with real feeling. "Soon Over Babaluma" has both ends of the spectrum. It kicks off with "Dizzy Dizzy" a lively track with more than a hint of cajun to it, led by Karoli's violin. And Karoli's vocals work really well on this track - unlike on "Chain Reaction" which I realise many will think is the centrepiece of the album; here though I think Michaels vocals are weak - we know he can't sing well, but please, at least try to sound like you're making an effort! It's the weakest track here, because of the poor vocals. It runs straight into "Quantum Physics" which is Can experimenting with sound and textures; I almost dismissed it but as with so much good music, after several plays I really began to appreciate it. The other two tracks - "Come sta" and "Splash" are good, if not great, music. Overall the album lacks the cohesion of its predecessor, Ege Bamyasi (and minor point - the album cover disappoints!). Unlike other reviewers, I found the production quality on this re-mastered CD first rate. Despite its shortcomings, I'd give it 3.5 stars which feeling generous I'd round up to 4.

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Send comments to Phil (BETA) | Report this review (#74609)
Posted Tuesday, April 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
jgill1999@yah
3 stars Saw this CD in the bargain bin for $3.99, and since I drive alot for my job, decided to pick it up and was pleasantly surprised by this album. I have seen Can on this site, but this was my 1st CD, and although it was somewhat slow moving, it was nice and spacey to listen to on my 4 hour drive to Fargo. I do plan on getting some more Can and am looking forward to this group getting bigger in my collection.

Solid 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#104113)
Posted Thursday, December 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Imagine this scene. Imagine a modern sort of Rome, a great empire spread across continents. It rose up under one great leader, and was then followed by a new, even greater leader who brought this Rome to new heights. Then imagine this leader being unfit to lead, and having to leave. Rome has no new leaders left who can keep it at its previous level, and it starts to decline. It's only a matter of time before it crumbles. Now, apply this image to music. We now have a band that becomes great under one leader. This leader is replaced by an even better leader who somehow manages to improve the music. And, finally, this leader has to leave, and the musical quality slowly starts to decline. The last step of this process is to apply it to a specific band. It is CAN, of course, who I am talking about. CAN is this Rome, this greatest of all bands, made great under Malcolm Mooney, and made legendary under Damo Suzuki. And then Damo Suzuki left, and the music started to decline.

This album is the first post Damo Suzuki album CAN released, continuing somewhat in the vein of Future Days, the last Damo Suzuki release, but not nearly as interesting. And yet, it is still worthy of the CAN moniker, because much of the material here approaches the same levels as that of their classic period (Monster Movie to Future Days, and including Delay 1968). But, and this is important, it never reaches fully the insane heights of albums like Monster Movie or Tago Mago. As I said, it is similar in style to Future Days, meaning that it is slightly symphonic in nature, but still contains enough Krautrock weirdness to keep traditional Krautrock fans happy. The only major difference between the two albums (other than that Future Days is much better) is the presence of world music (before the term had been coined), which is overwhelming on the first three tracks (which are quite conspicuously the weaker three tracks, with the exception of Splash). CAN had started to show these world music tendencies on Ege Bamyasi, and had seemed to have dropped them on Future Days, but here they resurface. Thankfully, enough traditional CAN type music is here (that is, mind-expanding, boundary pushing, thought provoking music) to keep my pleased and listening all the way through.

The first half of this album often strikes me as one big buildup. First we are presented with Dizzy Dizzy, which, the first time I heard it, had me going, "oh no, CAN's really gone down the drain." I like it a lot more now, but I was and still am quite wary of it. Things get slightly better with Come Sta, La Luna, another one I hated at first, but one which now I actively enjoy (as opposed to Dizzy Dizzy, which I don't dislike, but which I also feel mostly indifferent towards). And, finally, we get Splash, a crazy, fun filled ride in a similar vein as Spray off of Future Days. At this point, you can tell that it still is CAN going, as only they could pull off a song like that. As I said, however, this is all just one big buildup. The climax has yet to come, but when it does, it lasts twenty minutes and is very close to the level of such songs as Halleluwah, Pinch, Yoo Doo Right, Soup, Aumgn, and other CAN experimentations. This climax is, of course, the two-song side two of this album. There are two tracks, but, in reality, both blend together to form a two-part mini-masterpiece (but not a full scale masterpiece like the ones I mentioned). Chain Reaction is the upbeat half of the two, getting us started in rocking fashion, only to have Quantum Physics close us in slower but no less crazy fashion.

There are still plenty of problems with this album, however. Dizzy Dizzy sounds completely uninspired, and if it weren't for the fact that CAN were doing it, I probably wouldn't even give it the time of day. It's just not worth my time. The rest of the album is better, but it still doesn't sound nearly as inspired as any of their earlier albums were. I don't know why their music would change with vocalists, but it did each time they changed vocalists, and with the loss of an amazing vocalist like Damo Suzuki, there comes a cause and effect "chain reaction" that looks something like this: 1) Damo Suzuki leaves band 2) The music gets worse And, finally, the vocals are really nothing here. When Malcolm Mooney had to leave, they replaced him with Damo Suzuki. When Damo left, however, they replaced him with themselves, and they really fall flat on their face. They would have been better off leaving vocals well enough alone and simply going for instrumental music, because the music here is leagues above the vocals.

In the end, I'd recommend this album for all fans of CAN, because there's a good chance you'll like it (much as I do), even if you don't think it stands up to their earlier work (as I don't). It's not a bad album by any means, and is indeed better than many albums I know, even those much more highly regarded than this one is. The CAN musical empire had not yet crumbled, though the cracks began to appear here. They would hold it together for one more album, Landed, and then all hell would break loose with Flow Motion. Don't start here, but if you do like the band, definitely try it. You will be disappointed at first, but eventually, you'll come to realize that, while it cannot hold its own with their Mooney and Damo eras, it can hold its own with the general world of music, and even prog music. It's not a classic, as each of their earlier albums was, but neither is it a dud. Give it a try and take an open mind along for the ride, and you should be just fine.

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Send comments to Pnoom! (BETA) | Report this review (#115879)
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars An album to appreciate, but not necessarily enjoy

Can's 1974 follow up to "Future days" was this intriguingly titled album consisting of just five tracks. This album was the last Can release to be recorded on two track equipment, on subsequent albums the band finally utilised the technical advances which had been made in the studio environment. With the departure of Damo Suzuki after the release of "Future days", the lead vocalist slot became rather unsettled, with Michael Karoli singing on two tracks here and Irmin Schmidt on one. Who is the vocalist is however largely academic as there is virtually no singing as such, the voices generally being used as a percussive instrument.

"Dizzy dizzy", which opens the album has an odd, reggae like beat backing floating violin and mumbled chanting. Such a description may sound confused and unattractive, but the results are reasonably captivating. "Come sta, La Luna" continues the odd rhythms, but this time with more of a rock orientation. Guitar is the lead instrument here, the repetitive vocals being a bit more orthodox but still not sung by any means.

"Splash", the third and final track on side one is a straightforward jazz fusion type improvisation featuring guitar then electric violin. The rather sparse rhythm section focuses on the frantic drumming of Jaki Liebezeit, Holger Czukay's bass being all but inaudible.

The 11˝ minute "Chain reaction" is the longest track on the album. The pulsating, disco like rhythms lay the foundations for a lengthy, rather unstructured improvisation based once again around violin and guitar. "Quantum physics" segues straight from "Chain reaction", effectively forming a side long piece. The mood however changes to a softer ambient atmosphere with little overt music as such, just waves of sound.

For an album released in 1974, "Soon over Babaluma" is an astonishingly forward looking and imaginative album. That however does not necessarily make it either good or enjoyable. Personally, while I admire the band's creativity, in musical terms the album leaves me cold.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#136321)
Posted Wednesday, September 05, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars CAN's first record without Damo Suzuki would turn out ok, but for me the magic is lost. Karoli and Schmidt would share the vocals, and they're both ok as they sing in a low key.

"Dizzy Dizzy" opens with percusion and violin as distant sounding vocals from Karoli come in. This song has that catchy groove CAN is known for. "Come Sta, La Luna" opens with percussion as Scmidt comes in vocally with keys. Spoken words follow. Some guitar after 1 1/2 minutes in. Violin a minute later. Themes are repeated. "Splash" is more uptempo as percussion and violin lead the way. The violin seems distorted at times,or maybe dissonant is the word. My favourite part of the whole album is the guitar playing on this song beginning 2 minutes in. They're just jamming during most of this song. Nice. My favourite track.

"Chain Reaction" builds to a good beat before the tempo slows before 4 minutes. Vocals come in courtesy of Karoli and guitar. The tempo picks back up as screeching guitar comes in. It slows down again after 8 minutes. Vocals return. "Quantum Physics" takes a while to really get going, although it may not be right to say it ever does get going. Haha. There is a steady beat 2 1/2 minutes in but it's brief. It's spacey 5 1/2 minutes in. Just not much happening for 8 1/2 minutes.

For me this is barely 3 stars. Especially when compared to their past albums, this is a bit of a disappointment.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#178988)
Posted Wednesday, August 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars If ever there was an album that fit Frank Zappa's album title "Trance Fusion", this would be it. Here we have five tracks of Can's high energy hypnotic jams. And for the most part, this album entertains.

It begins with "Dizzy Dizzy", a reggae jam with a whispered vocal percussion and nice violin riffing by Michael Karoli. Next is "Come Sta, La Luna", which to me sounds like what you would get if you allowed Can to reinterpret "The Girl From Ipanema". Then "Splash", one of the few times I can recall this band venturing into an unconventional time signature, 7/8. The album concludes with "Chain Reaction", another jam, that's pretty mesmerizing, until the somewhat lame vocals begin. This song then melds into "Quatum Physics", with percussionist Liebezeit and bassist Czukay just flying along.

I'd give this one 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#221871)
Posted Friday, June 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Soon Over Babaluma" is the 6th full-length studio album by German Krautrock/experimental rock act Can. The album was released through United Artists/Spoon/Mute in November 1974. Japanese lead vocalist Damo Suzuki jumped ship soon after the release of "Future Days (1973)" to marry his German girlfriend and become a Jehovah's Witness, so "Soon Over Babaluma" was a kind of new start for the band. Can opted to continue as a four-piece and not hire a new lead vocalist. The vocals on the album are handled by guitarist Michael Karoli and Keyboard player Irmin Schmidt.

"Soon Over Babaluma" features 5 tracks, distributed over a 43:22 minutes long playing time. The two opening tracks "Dizzy Dizzy" and "Come sta, La Luna" are the most accessible tracks on the album. Both feature vocals and Michael Karoli plays violin which is a new feature in Can´s soundscape. The rhythm section are still one of the greatest assets of Can´s music. Repetitive yet complex adventurous playing. The overall impression of the tracks are that they are organized jams that have evolved into structured songs, which is pretty much like it´s always been with Can. "Splash" touches jazz rock/fusion territory while the 11:12 minutes long "Chain Reaction" has time to go through different atmospheres and features many adventurous ideas. "Quantum Physics" closes "Soon Over Babaluma". It´s an atmopheric and ambient track.

The sound production is of good quality but not as great as the sound productions on earlier releases by the band. Actually both sound production, songwriting, and musicianship have declined slightly since "Future Days (1973)". Not to a degree where "Soon Over Babaluma" isn´t worth listening to or anything like that, and it´s still a recommendable release, but ultimately it´s slightly less interesting than it´s predecessors. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is warranted.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#230458)
Posted Saturday, August 08, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Soon Over Babaluma is certainly not one of the easier Can albums to get into. Damo Suzuki had left the band, taking with him the more directly expressive and emotional part of the Can. So even for a seasoned Krautoneer, it takes a while to get into the more subdued and subtly layered music on this album.

The first 3 tracks are still fairly accessible. With their short running time, catchy vocals and mesmerizing beauty, Dizzy Dizzy and Come Sta are immediate winners. Splash shifts a level higher in terms of accessibilty. The music is looser, fully improvised and jazzy.

The remaining half of the album poses the real challenge. Chain Reaction left me completely untouched for years, not sounding like much more then a jumble of wild ideas with few flashes of inspiration. The first half of Quantum Physics didn't strike me as any better. Only the second half of that song had more immediate appeal to me due to the ambient avant-garde noise and subtle percussion. But after a year of exploring improvised and avant music I find both to be brilliant.

As usual the conclusion is to never give up on an album, certainly not on a good one, and especially so where it concerns music that you fail to 'get' or understand. The problem was me, not the music.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#247251)
Posted Friday, October 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars During the height of "post rock" in the 90s, I went nuts over Can. So did a lot of people at that time, even though their best music was from the early/mid 70s. But by the mid/late 90s a lot of "alternative" was so commercial we were all burning out on it. Indie Rock was the place to be, even it began to sound "samey". The better indie bands seemed to really be a little avant or even post rock, and they were all name checking "Can". I bought all the albums and they sound like they were recorded in the 90s. Just fantastic stuff.

Its hard to pick a favorite Can album, but I've usually gone with this one since its their most "honed". They'd been honing their craft as tribal shamen that would lock into a groove and let it evolve. Holger Czukay, the bass player would then edit the tapes and pick out the best stuff. Lots of bands had been "jamming" since the 60s, and Soft Machine in particular was a big influence on Can, but their experimental, classically trained, German backgrounds created a whole new type of music. Really post-rock 25 years before post rock was invented!

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Send comments to akajazzman (BETA) | Report this review (#273752)
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars If you are interested in reggae meeting Kraut, then I guess that you will be delighted when your ears will be caught by « Dizzy Dizzy » which opens this album. Let's say that it is not my feeling nor cup of tea (the mix I mean, since I appreciate reggae for quite a long time). Press next. Actually "Come Sta, La Luna" also features some Jamaican flavours, but it is more hypnotic and spacey. Still, it is no big deal.

The first good track from this album is "Splash" which shows a more kraut-classic oriented music. If ever it means something. Good psyche mood, good beat (drumming is as always excellent). Some Latino influence is more than welcome for sure.

Wild beat again for "Chain Reaction" which features some great guitar work but offers no more than that. The beat is repetitive, monotonous. I can't tell that vocals are impressive either. All in all, this is quite an average track.

The minimalist closing number is hard to describe. Improvisation (or testing maybe) is what we get there. This track is definitely not going to propel this album into my top 500 for sure. Two stars even if this album which was released in 74 was quite avant garde for the time.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#285047)
Posted Saturday, June 05, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#293472)
Posted Thursday, August 05, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Can's first album without a dedicated lead singer is a tour de force for the group. Without a vocalist on board, the band feel less need to create space for the vocals in their music and focus solely on their instrumental performances, singing only when they feel the music demands it. Michael Karoli's vocal contributions are the best of the group, his additions to Dizzy Dizzy in particular contributing to the sound of the composition much as Damo Suzuki's might have. The album's heart is the hypnotic and compelling duo of Chain Reaction and Quantum Physics, and overall this a masterful album which (as others have pointed out) would eventually exert a powerful influence over the post-rock scene.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#532011)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars Can is another prog icon that I have often neglected, save for this album which I have always adored for some obscure reason. They were always strange bedfellows, a band that, much like the German National soccer team, play together as a unit or Mannschaft. No star solo heroes here. Whereas we are used to separation between instruments to the point of immediate identification of style, Can blends all into a dense cocktail of sound where Karoli's guitar, Schmidt's keys, Czukay's bass are all blended effortlessly. Only Liebezeit keeps the beat obvious and the percussion torrential. Certainly the first series of albums are legendary but my trio remains Future Days, Soon Over Babaluma and Landed, who incidentally or not ,are natural discographic progressions. The cover artwork has been a constant source of attraction, the original vinyl yielding a silver/blue map of seismic peaks and greenish valleys. "Dizzy Dizzy" is remindful, in style and feel, of Roxy Music's masterstroke and harbinger of future electronica , 1971's The Bogus Man". How can music be minimalist and lush at the same time, you ask? Well, Eno just continued the style espoused by these Kraut rockers with his Another Green Worlds of oddball /ambient/psychedelia. Throw some vaporous violin, brisk reggae e-guitar, some obscure keyboards, oblique bass and shifting rhythmic pulsations, all together with some hushed vocalizations and you get dizzy!

"Come Sta La Luna" is creepy, choppy, dissonant, confusing and outright bizarre. Imagine a decadent electronic tango with dilettante wannabees, cheap red wine and pungent cigarettes both smeared by overflowing lipstick. Extreme sonic environment, to say the least. "Splash" is a percu-fest, Liebezeit going berserk on his kit, while Karoli ravages his violin/guitar arsenal. Nasty stuff! At times, the guitar navigates like Santana on acid, a weird and pervasive sense of lunacy invades the soul.

But the core of this sublime album is the next 2 epics, "Chain Reaction" and "Quantum Physics", both loyal to the Bogus Man feel mentioned earlier and hence highly explorative, delirious and meandering. Here are the overtly sprouting seeds of electronica, world music, funky psychedelia and so much more. I mean this is not very feminine music, no massive melodies that one can sing along and no poignant lyrics. "Chain Reaction" is shadowy, murky, greasy and rude. It is also erotic, sensual and kinky, musically speaking. Soundtrack for a dominatrix! Liebezeit in particular demonstrates a riffling technique that knows no respite, plowing mercilessly forward on some obsessive inspiration, sweat dripping down his chin, or is that drool? Not the easiest stuff to listen to, bored housewives hooked on AM radio would probably slice open their wrists at the mere thought of such cerebral sounds. "Quantum Physics" is just the natural evolution of their inspiration, impenetrable electronics, foggy rhythms, opaque bass and drums that must have duck tape on them, so cavernous is the thud. Hypnotically inclined, cleverly elliptical and expertly-mental, this is the essence of music in 1973, progressing from Chuck Berry and Bill Haley to some distant sonic heaven. Off the wall, meandering on the wood flooring, into the drain, down the pipe, across the yard and ultimately joining the river. This happens often when you are over Babaluma.

When friends ask me what is the strangest album I have, I invariably whip out this one, to go with Penguin Café Orchestra, Pavlov's Dog, Weidorje, Universal Totem Orchestra and Sparks. It causes quite a stir, so I have a straight jacket handy. You never know when someone gets dizzy dizzy.

4.5 tin tins

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#690825)
Posted Monday, March 26, 2012 | Review Permalink

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