I love Can. Just love 'em.
There, I said it. I have been meaning to say it for about thirty years now, but only recently have I figured out why I love Can so much.
Can, if you are not familiar with them, is a band from Germany who had a storied and influential career from the 1970's through the 1990's, maintained their own firm hold on the music they released and always made it push on the walls of the traditional four-piece rock band (guitar, organ, bass, drums). They did instrumental records, often soundtracks, that are fascinating and broad. Delay was their friend; you can hear a lot of the repeat echo guitar sounds of Michael Karoli in later disciples like The Edge from U2.
Occasionally, they made records with two singers, Malcolm Mooney (USA) and Damo Suzuki (Japan) which only added another shade to the regulated and understated chaos already in place. My familiarity with the band's vast repertoire is confined to their first few albums, which registered during my peak musical awareness years of 1970-1974. United Artists Records released them, along with fellow Germans Amon Duul II and other great stuff like Wales' Man and of course The Move's Split Ends.
Hard to say if many of my friends dug on those records as much, but I would slap on my Koss Pro 4A headphones late on a Friday night and dive deep into Tago Mago, their second album and the first to include Damo Suzuki. From the second the needle reached "Mushroom" I was in Can's care for four sides.
What moved me most then is what moves me most now: the drumming of Jaki Liebezeit, which is the embodiment of the funky robot. It's jovial, empty and sound. Regimental, orchestral in its form, it's still rock and roll drums, and Jaki somehow turns the regiment on its side and provides an element of soul that is implicit. Big holes alllll over the place, always turning up in the same place with something minimally different from the last time. (Like listening to Al Jackson Jr. to see when or if he'd take a fill and how many notes.) Jaki has the kind of feel that differentiates clocks you wind from clocks you program.
He makes me want to pound on the steering wheel when I'm driving and listening to them, so I do.
It doesn't hurt that the riffs of Michael Karoli's violin and guitar, and the playfulness of Holger Czukay's bass are right in there with him. And Damo is... certainly right there with them too, if on some other plane entirely in his singing. For many years, I've believed that he's been yelling "Searching for my tractor/yes I am" throughout the epic "Halleluwah" from Tago Mago. Through the internet, I find the word is actually "brother" which disappoints me a little, having pictured Damo wandering the back forty in his cap and overalls for three decades by now.
But Jaki is the power administrator in this community; you may remember "No One Receiving" by Brian Eno, the lead off track on Before and After Science. That's Jaki at the drums, doing his Jaki thing for Eno, and it's probably one of the hardest rocking tracks of the noted producer has ever made.
Jaki is now doing music with an artist named Burnt Friedman, and it appears he's deep into dub today. Life after Can. He turns seventy next year, and he's still creating music that requires some listening and thinking.
Pretty cool, very funky, Jaki.