Starting with those born in Gen-X (earlier, really), it is difficult to understand how critical Can has been to the modern music landscape. Outside of a handful of music nerds, they have been fairly hidden from the eyes and ears of the mainstream. Beginning from their 1968 inception, Can's amoebic and indescribable aesthetic has guided more bands, sounds and genres than nearly any other performer. Their ubiquitous influence and relatively non-commercial success have led the German pioneers to blend into a style that they, themselves, created, and is parroted by an infinite nebula of bands for the last forty years.
Along with fundamentally coining the Krautrock and Kosmiche sub-genre (both terms were essentially created to describe their sound), Can have had significant impacts on ambient, nu-jazz, experimental, post/psych-rock, and jam scenes...the list goes on and on. Onstage, Can's legacy can be felt in in their incredible improvisations, eschewing set lists for formless blast-offs. Their concerts are driving and hypnotic voyages into the ether; no trip will ever be exactly the same. However, despite these mythical performances, Can has never released a proper live album until now, their new Live In Stuttgart 1975 LP.
Live in Stuttgart is the first in a series of Live Can releases, and has seen the light of day thanks to modern technology and savvy bootleggers. The band has oft tried to release live albums, but until now, the recipe never turned out in a way that did the experience justice. In true Can fashion, Live In Stuttgart is five improvisational movements. Each segment features the band members exploring their individual competencies with enough razor-sharp precision to create a unified sound; everyone intuitively moving through space together, creating a singular groove.
Each movement evokes a variety of moods and styles. "Ein" opens the record with an atmospheric funk before heading into a brief mystical Eastern-inspired walk. The album closes with "Funf," which explores atonal synthesizers and thumping bass and drums. "Drei," the album's 36min improvisational warhorse is a journey into the farthest depths of jamming. "Drei" ebbs and flows with the power of a storm crashing onto the coast; a disorienting and dazzling array of sonic thunder and lightning. Each lengthy and intrepid improvisational movement flows seamlessly, albeit not particularly gracefully through modal and tempo shifts, and eventually punctuates itself with a roaring explosion of stacked amps and pounding drums; audio chaos. Despite the pieces being fairly standalone on record, each comes together to create an overarching idea to give the album a connected experience.
Improvisational music has recently entered a bit of a renaissance period. Musicians rooted in all genres are trying their hand at freeform work, pooling from influences as wide and varying as the performers themselves. They take bits of some bands, while leaving other bands and styles untouched. Can, however, is potentially the world's most drawn-from improvisational band whether or not their proteges are even aware, and their authority and mastery can be felt heavily throughout Live in Stuttgart 1975.
Album Grade: You need to know this band!