Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Ege Bamyasi - Can - album review

After releasing the epic double album Tago Mago in 1971, Can did something slightly different for their next release.  1972's Ege Bamyasi has a more direct and concentrated sound, although it is not as vast a departure from its predecessor as some might think.

In places the sound is more raw and minimalist, elsewhere the instruments are captured in a more "live" feel, especially the drums, which are such an integral feature of the Can world of the early 70s. Known for primarily being made up of shorter, more succinct songs, this album does in fact feature two lengthier compositions, more in keeping with the content of Tago Mago.  Also, many of the tracks are based on the same highly rhythmic foundation.

The "water" sound-effects at the beginning of "Sing Swan Song" are one of the highlights for me! The song itself is slyly hypnotic, and it is one of those Can numbers which only fully reveals its subtleties when listened to very closely and attentively.

It is reputed that this record, perhaps more than any other Can LP, was highly influential on subsequent generations of music, particularly the purveyors of post-punk, alternative and electronic music. This is something which becomes apparent a short way into the work.  Its directness, and what might be termed the deceptively melodic minimalism and sparseness of the arrangements. "One More Night" springs to mind in this regard. The likely effect of Ege Bamyasi on people over time is rather difficult to articulate, which perhaps only underlines its brilliance.

Possibly the best-known song on the album is "Vitamin C", a very infectious creation with hooks in abundance.  The chorus is sung with more vigour and "passion" than is often associated with Can's work of that era. Like much of the group's output, it largely defies conventional description, partly because there is very little with which to realistically compare it.....

The longest song on the set is "Soup".  The "introduction" section appears to presage the laid-back material which would characterize areas of Future Days, then it briefly threatens to resemble something approaching a conventional rock song, but reassurance arrives as it reverts to Can-type, the most experimental piece of work on the record, with heavy use of electronic effects.  The opener, "Pinch", is over nine minutes in duration, but is much less "out there" in nature.

Then back to more concise and compact territory to close out the record. "I'm So Green" is one of the many Can tracks to prompt the observation "it's incredible to think that this was recorded as long ago as (insert year)". Then again, it doesn't really sound like anything recorded in more recent times either. To use a cliche, a song which operates "out of time".

"Spoon" is another number which can be clearly seen to have inspired and enthused musicians of later years, that is the 80s and the 90s. The percussion feels more mechanical, and this song appears distantly related to the Manchester scene of the late 80s/early 90s, although this could be just a coincidence or an indirect link.

Ege Bamyasi does not, for me anyway, quite possess the capacity of Tago Mago to induce open-mouthed awe and wonder, but it is another captivating illustration of Can's singular genius and originality.

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