Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Can – Tago Mago (Spoon)
This is what happens: “Paperhouse” is a gently swinging, pretty song for the first two minutes. Waves of radio interference try to intrude, but can’t disrupt the gentle flow. At the two-minute mark, however, the drums ramp up into a pulsing war beat, signaling a fierce jam with battling guitars, reminding of the Stones at their most midnight ramblin’ depraved. The song settles into a restless reprisal of the introduction before there's a quick edit into more war drums. Just as I think the song is coming to rest, there’s another edit into “Mushroom,” funky reverberating drum beat, ebbing and surging in synch with Damo Suzuki’s whispered and screamed rantings while guitars and organ send tentacles into the sky, which explodes to repel the intrusion. Static rains down, out of which “Oh yeah” emerges. Suzuki sings backwards and reversed cymbals hiss over a brisk beat. The organ keeps airbrushing the sky. After the next spate of thunder, the vocals turn the right way around again, although I still can’t understand a word. The music fades to mark the end of side one.

"Halleluhwah" doesn’t ask for an invitation; it just starts, bass and drums locked in for the duration, laying down what Miles Davis and co. would do “On the Corner” a few years later. Suzuki free associates for a bit about a moon shadow coming down, finding riffs and melodies just as the other instruments do. Percussion overdubs roll over top, a violin streaks across it all. The drummer’s a machine; he’s not letting go of that beat. The rest of the band relaxes and begins throwing in everything they can think of, positive this thing’s not going to wreck. Eventually the drums join the party, taking the band up and up, climbing to a point you know they’ll have to jump and when they do, it’s just right; a little of the cacophony lingers when that beat starts again. The party fades abruptly because the side’s over.

“Amugn” is random and spooky; far more ill-willed than anything Pink Floyd ever put on record. As the tape begins rolling, all instruments are thrown into an echo chamber, where insects devour them. The band observes from behind the mixing board, randomly twisting the pan pots. Satan himself steps up to the mike and moans into the abyss. The insects stop eating the instruments and begin learning to play them. They link limbs and form prehensile clusters resembling human appendages. There’s a dog loose in the studio! The insects concentrate on the drums, bashing them with their massed exoskeletons. Their excited buggy shrieks cross the threshold of human hearing. The documentary of their accelerated evolution lasts 17:37.

Damo Suzuki and the rest of the band enter the echo chamber for “Peking O,” for more jarring space improv. A keyboard demo bossa nova pattern strikes up, Suzuki croons over top. Screaming takes over, as he converses with the other instruments...the electric drum device thumps like a helicopter overhead...someone hammers boards in the background. With a couple minutes to go, they find a pulsing groove to follow and the song at least finds a beat. “Bring Me Coffee Or Tea” is a comparatively calming raga with buzzing pseudo-sitar and drums that skitter over top the drone, almost erasing the distress that the second half of the album has wrought. It picks up momentum as it goes and it sounds like the band is having fun using their freakout talents for good, not evil. That's what happened. It was 1971.

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