Can - "Prehistoric Future" (Tago Mago, LP)
From Aural Innovations #14 (January 2001)
Slightly under 30 minutes of what is supposed to be Can's first-ever jam, "spontaneously composed by Can at Scholss Nörvenich, West Germany, June 1968". The core lineup of Karoli / Czukay / Schmidt / Liebezeit are joined by David Johnson (flute, tapes) and Manni Löhe (vocals, percussion, flute) - this being even before Malcolm Mooney joined the group, which he would do later that year. This album is, in several ways, more extreme sounding than Can would ever later be, and the band manages to cover a large musical territory in the process. At the onset (and at points throughout the album), the influence totem Karlheinz Stockhausen is felt, at times if Stockhausen was attempting to conduct an "orchestra" of Amon Düül or Cro Magnon. Of course, Can were not exactly unskilled hippies, but it is intriguing to hear them get this loose. Even at the most out-there moments of the album, strangely familiar, almost recognizable bass pulses, guitar lines, and percussion patterns are heard, rendering the participants unmistakable.
Manni Löhe obviously sounds little like Malcolm Mooney (or Damo Suzuki), and had his own style that fit as well as those two; he either wails, sounding electronic, or joins the rhythm section with rhythmic clicks and grunts, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of his successor's style. But improv parts are followed by something different... things change quite a bit of the 30 minutes, as rhythms may shift from sly and funky to ballistically pounding before you notice. Other parts are Can at their most VU-influenced, and downright heaviest. The rhythm section fills up both the temporal and harmonic space like it never would later, as they later advanced in subtlety. But here, Holger can be heard thumping away on all the beats as the entire band rocks out. Maybe a musique concrete tape next?
After another dissociate introduction, side 2 quickly gets into the most overtly Can-like groove of the album, with the flute joining Leibezeit's backbeat to add a jazzy edge. Here, too, Löhe's vocals are Mooney-esquely percussive, ushering further mutations to the sound that add up to make this an excellent "spontaneous composition". The sense of evolution over the course of the album, and foreshadowing what was to come are both reason enough to listen. Originally released in France on cassette only in 1984, this is clearly an item of major interest to the Can fan or krautrock connoisseur.
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Reviewed by Doug Pearson