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14 October 2010

Can - 'Soon Over Babaluma' (United Artists)

I really like records that have that shiny, mirrored cover, even though when they are 35 years old (in this case) they really start to look shitty, almost like the sleeve is going rusty. I never know how to rate Soon Over Babaluma. This is Can's first album without an exclusive vocalist, but should that matter? Future Days, which somehow disappeared from my accumulation, is one of my favourite Can records, perhaps the one where they most truly explore the idea of 'Inner Space'. Soon Over Babaluma actually amps things up a bit, but there's a really strong Italian prog influence. It's heard most notably on "Splash', though since this LP is so beaten I couldn't get all the way though that track without having to pick up the stylus FOUR TIMES to circumvent skips. Michael Karoli and Irmin Schmidt are more than adequate vocalists for this type of music, which is frantic, yet horizontal; it finds a nervousness and stays locked between two poles, oscillating in a way that allows Karoli to do some lead guitar heroics. 'Chain Reaction' is the longest track here, at 11 minutes, but it doesn't really get into the more bizarre soundregions the earlier albums explore. When it breaks, it sorta rolls with a funk/jazz feel. The basslines are properly monotonous, but Can has migrated by this point into a (very, very good) prog-rock band. It's still great music on that level, but it's not the truly special sound explorations we heard on 'Peking O'. And I hate to say it, but it feels compositionally scattered. Jaki has moved from drums to "perc." and you can hear it here - this resembles King Crimson's Starless and Bible Black-style Fripp leads + wacky percussion. Or maybe that's Lark's Tongues, I always forget which one has the extra percussionist. The maracas and shakers tend to overwhelm things. There's not nearly as much space in these songs, but there's certainly a more sci-fi feeling (just look at the cover)! 'Dizzy Dizzy' and 'Come Sta. La Luna' are the two leadoff tracks and potential singles, though if you listen to a hit like 'Spoon' and then come back to this, well, it's just not the same. 'Come Sta. La Luna' is Irmin singing and it sounds like some dark miscreant horror movie spawn; it's oddball even in the diverse catalogue of Can and one that's sure to be repeated. 'Quantum Physics' is the closer, a dark piece that's hard to really sort out, but it has some nice textural work. I stop after this, with Can, though a bit of the later stuff I've heard is very very nice, probably in a way that if it were any other band, I'd listen to lots. But because it's Can, my standards are too high.

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