Friday, November 19, 2010
Kraut Fishing in America, Post-Can Edition: Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble, & Jaki Liebezeit- Full Circle (1982)
Listening to post-Can solo records, it begins to seem that Holger Czukay was perhaps the standout of the band, in terms of radical yet listenable ideas and sheer creativity. Yet to call any member of Can greater than the other is sheer madness to the reasonable mind-- each man stands tall as a necessary and brilliant contributor to the powerhouse collaboration of the band-- so perhaps this impulse is due to Holger's ability to maintain relevance and a largely consistent high standard of quality in his solo projects and post-Can collaborations. This is not particularly true of Karoli, and I've never much cared for Irmin Schmidt's later albums (though there is some good stuff to be found in his ouvre, to be sure). Liebezeit, who is actually all over this record, was always too much the consummate collaborator to be said to even have a solo record, although he is the major force of Phantomband (which is pretty hit or miss for me).
Czukay himself, while an exemplary bassist to be sure, always made his mark more profoundly in the editing room and the conceptual sphere, a quality that makes him a lot like a certain Mr. Brian Eno, another painterly, tape-cutting, instrument-treating, ethno-sampling musical artist... a man who definitely owes a large creative debt to Czukay. Maybe Holger's vision as a composer and an artist, rather than strictly as a musician (which is not meant to slight or omit mention of his remarkable abilities as a multi-instrumentalist), are what make his solo records so fascinating and enduring for me, personally.
Anyway, I'm going to start posting some post-Can projects from these godlike geniuses, especially my main man Czukay, and this can be the first one, since it's one of my favorites. The "dub" elements are tasteful and abstract, and the whole thing has a contemporary feel to it, at times sharply predicting the kraut-influenced spacy/repetitive weirdo-pop of current artists like Ariel Pink, Sun Araw, or Indian Jewelry, feeling precisely like a direction so many Krautrock acts could and perhaps should have gone, with more verve and creative energy than they did.
Here's a pretty thoughtful review from Julian Cope: I have never understood why this record has always been so overlooked and severely underestimated. Even in the tons of praise heaped on Can in recent years the cursory mention given to the solo recordings of Can members tends to ignore or dismiss this fantastic disc.
During Can’s later years the influences of dub and ‘world’ music watered down the unhinged aggression and sheer naked artistic intent of their earlier recordings. However, here those influences give the record a hue, rather than sloppily splashing gaudy colour all over the place. The zany professor tendencies which Holger exhibits to occasionally irritating effect in his solo work are reigned in here as he has to restrain himself in the context of his collaborators.
Reading between the lines of the statements made about this collaboration by all concerned it seems that Wobble’s relationship with Czukay and Liebezeit wasn’t totally harmonious. Maybe this is the reason why there is a distinct lack of the mawkish sunniness which ruined later Can records, although the fallout from Jah Wobble’s involvement in PIL’s ‘Metal Box’ is also a major factor. Whatever the reasons, there is definitely a darker, more sinister edge to this record than anything the Can members had recently recorded.
‘How Much Are They?’ is a dubby dance tune with klanky rhythm-box and beautiful, warm bass. The music flies all over the room. Infact the same could be said of all the tracks on this LP. Tapes play backwards, instruments sound like they’re being played outside one minute, then right next to your ears the next. Wobble’s vocals are Shaun Ryder rough (specially on ‘Trench Warfare’). There’s dissonance all over the place. Guitar pickings, french horn, keyboards and tapes drop in and out with no immediately apparent logic. I’m making this sound like a mess, I know, but don’t forget that Holger Czukay’s in charge of the tapes, so the chaos is never allowed to take over. This album is one of the best editing jobs in music. Jaki’s fluid yet precise drumming is the glue holding it all together. The wanky EFS concept Can loved so much is mutated into the RPS (Radio Pictures Series) concept on two of the tracks on this record. As the name suggests radio samples fly around the mix as the Jah bass and Liebezeit sticks keep a head-nodding dub a-rolling. ‘Mystery RPS (No.8)’ is one of the most strangely beautiful pieces of music. It’s like Stockhausen’s moment form, but with gorgeous, stoned, seductive sounds instead of spiky, confrontational noises. Beguiling is the word. ‘Can you feel the wind?’ indeed. (Excerpt)
FULL CIRCLE 320