MEMOS FROM A MUSIC FIEND
BY ALEJANDRO MAGAÑA
Can: Future Days
At this pivotal time in history nobody can say with any real certainty what the future has in store. What we all probably agree on however, is that things need to change drastically. Epochs usually end with something irreparably broken or split from what was, and new life taking shape out of what is left. As it is with the simplest biological organisms, so it is with the complicated machinations of complex animalia such as the human species. In the case of we humans, necessity has always fostered inventions from the Stone Age through the Bronze Age to the Industrial Revolution of the “Modern Age.” Cultures adapt or die, as we have seen throughout human history, but adaptation does not mean abandonment of the past; humans are set apart from other animals simply by the sheer complexity of the human mind, and we are able to take our tools of the past and improve upon them, renewing their significance to fit new problems and new spaces. Music, like any other cultural product, is no different. Many jazz innovators for example were black folk who were classically trained and forged new sounds and new idioms out of those acoustic instruments to create the foundations of Jazz, one of the few artistic creations indigenous to the USA.
Now imagine you’re Can, or really any of the musicians of the nebulous collection of bands and musicians from Germany (often referred to as “Krautrock,” outside Germany, much to the dismay of the musicians themselves, heretofore referred to as “Kosmiche,” German for “Cosmic”) who were children during World War II and whose parents and pastors and entire communities were complicit, either directly as functionaries of the NAZIs, or by simply not actively working against Hitler’s regime while they were on the rise. The members of Can, like many of the Kosmiche movement were progressive thinkers and artists who believed in a far more cosmopolitan vision for their country and took part in many of the struggles for social justice that were rampant in the 1960s (and continue now of course.) These musicians and bands wanted to create music that was not simply mimicry of Western rock and roll, nor a perpetuation of the cheesy “Schlager” music that was their parents’ version of the Pat Boone-type here in the US, safe, boring and inoffensive.
As a fan of Can I consider them a fundamental part of the great continuum of popular rock, though they are certainly not “popular” in the general way that we think of “Pop” here in our top-40-addled country, and they only had one or two hits in Europe during their entire decade-plus existence. Their particular brand of “rock” is informed by early spacey sci-fi soundtracks, the musique concrete experiments of Stockhausen, jazz, funk and sounds from around the world, and they would have an influence on tons of bands, from the early punks and New Wave bands until now.
“Future Days” is my favorite Can record because, although it is only a total of four tracks, they are a perfect example of all that Can do particularly well. To my ears, THIS record is the exemplar of the Can sound: spacey soundscapes and mutant-funk, epic ambient lunar guitar filigree and hard driving primordial rhythms, all ornamented with the hazy, sweet lilting vocals of Damo Suzuki, (A Japanese hippy they met a few years before while he was busking.) This would be the last Can album to feature Damo who has said that he was happy this was their last because they had finally captured all that they were aiming for musically on this record. I for one, wholeheartedly agree. If you’ve never checked this out, I’m actually a little envious, because you have a whole new musical world to explore. Dim the lights, turn up loud and dream awake, as Damo sings in the album opener, “For the sake of future days…”