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Published: 2012/08/08
by Ron Hart

The Lost Tapes


The studio in Weilerswist, Germany that belonged to out-rock legends CAN was as crucial to the evolution of the Deutschland-derived genre known as Kosmische Muzik as Black Ark was to reggae or the John Cage’s corner of Wesleyan University’s Music Department was for classical.

It was the epicenter for countless hours of brainstorming, jamming and recording; a place where such rock masterpieces as Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi and Future Days, albums that have inspired a wide range of equally influential acts from PiL to Portishead.

Just recently this storied studio was sold to the German Rock ‘n’ Pop Museum, who bought literally everything inside the place right down to the beat-up old Army mattress they tacked to the wall as a sound muffler in order to perfectly replicate the integrity of the facility’s initial location in Gronau. And while they were cleaning out the space, old tape reels containing over 30 hours of unreleased material were discovered, which were then promptly taken to founding CAN man Irmin Schmidt and longtime collaborator Jono Podmore for evalution.

In the end, the pair whittled down the celluloid to three jam-packed compact discs worth of previously unheard music spanning the years 1968 to 1977, shelved due to either space constraints or soundtrack recordings for films that were never released. And depending on where you stand on CAN, the listener will see The Lost Tapes, gorgeously packaged in a facsimile reel-to-reel box with a great booklet teeming with information and rare photography, as either a treasure trove or a rummage bin.

If you’re not particularly hot on the Malcolm Mooney era of the group, there’s an onside chance you might think that much of the material on the first disc should have remained “lost”. However, if you wanna hear the core CAN lineup of Schmidt on keys, guitarist Michael Karoli, bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezet at their instrumental best, there is material on the second and third discs that will blow your mind, namely the material that shines a light on the group’s much-overlooked mid-70s period like 1975’s “Networks of Foam” and the brilliant “Barnacles”, presumably an outtake from the sessions for 1977’s sleeper classic Saw Delight. Meanwhile, an epic live version of the Ege centerpiece “Spoon” showcases the improvisational peak of second frontman Damo Suzuki’s powers as a microphone shaman.

Picky appreciators of the CAN legacy might want to cherry pick from The Lost Tapes on iTunes, but for completists, this outstanding collection is a need-to-have item.

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