In August 1971, when Can released his second album, Tag Mago, there was not much that looked like it. Half a century later, there is still not much in the musical landscape like this record.
The debut album of the German krautrock band, 1969 monster movie, included many of the same elements featured in the sequel: touches of experimental music and psychedelia, as well as an epic song with an unconventionally spelled title. But between these two discs, the quintet has a new singer.
And while monster movieBlack American vocalist Malcolm Mooney helped launch Can – he gave the band their name and played a pivotal role in shaping its sound – the addition of Japanese-born Damo Suzuki on Tag Mago proved to be a significant moment in their careers and in the many genres they would cross.
Mooney returned to the United States in the early 1970s after suffering a nervous breakdown. He helped establish the band’s blend of avant-garde experimentalism and garage-rock psychedelia; he was the catalyst behind the first 20-minute “Yoo Doo Right”, which was edited from a six-hour improv piece.
Listen to Can’s “Halleluhwah”
But Can’s uncontrollable, unstructured music reflected too much of his personal issues. In the mid-1970s, bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit saw Suzuki on the street in Munich and invited him to play with them that night, even though he only knew a few guitar chords and improvised. all his words.
In May, he was part of the group and took part in the recording of Soundtracks, a compilation of film scores Can started with Mooney. In November they started recording Tag Mago in a West German mansion.
Over the next few months, the band locked themselves away sometimes for over 15 hours a day working on new music. In addition to the long jams they would run through — which Czukay later edited into more acceptable song lengths — outside sources and found sounds, like barking dogs and screaming children, would be incorporated into the finished tracks. . Everything was shaping up to be a more ambitious and even less structured album than Can’s debut.
From the opening “Paperhouse” to the end of the LP “Bring Me Coffee or Tea”, Tag Mago – a seven-song, double-disc set that runs for over 73 minutes – puts its most amazing tracks at the top. The beats slowly seep into something wackier, Suzuki builds his vocals from low-pitched growls to howling howls over the course of songs, and entire tracks unfold at a beat that can last anywhere from four (“Mushroom”) to 18 ( “Halleluhwah”) minutes .
Listen to Can’s “Oh Yeah”
The result is an album that pushed the boundaries of rock music at a time when boundaries were shattered every few months. But no other record released in 1971 sounds as extravagant or avant-garde as Tag Mago (whose title refers to an island near Ibiza called Illa de Tagomago). In many ways, despite his influence on other artists over the decades, he is still ahead of his time.
The flow is deliberate: “Paperhouse”, “Mushroom”, “Oh Yeah” and “Halleluhwah”, the entirety of the first two sides, drift into the occasional spaces left vacant by the propulsive rhythms with an ease that is both confident and uncomfortable. . Suzuki has never been better than it is here, riding the mix and sometimes sinking below the surface, like the only dynamic that rises above the hypnotic grooves.
Tag Mago became Can’s definitive album and the pinnacle of the Suzuki era, which lasted only two more records, the 1972s Ege Bamyasi and 1973 Future days. It hasn’t aged much, if at all, in the years since its release. From contemporaries like Marc Bolan to post-punks including John Lydon (who based Public Image Ltd.’s sound and style on the record) to Radiohead have all cited him as a direct inspiration for their work.
While many bands hammered blues-rock to the same sound and chest into the skulls of music fans in the early 70s, Can drew influence from outside venues like jazz – improvisational playing and the percussive swing are deeply rooted in it – and performance art, as well as in areas no one else really thought of at the time, such as cut and paste edits to tape as a form of creative expression. Tag Wago is as telling today as it was then.
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