Thursday, August 28, 2014

monster movie

The Can carved out an inner space at a German castle and sculpted a monstrous new music out of scraps of avante rock noise and experimental improvisational minimalism.  

The group was born out of the experience of Irmin Schmidt when he visited the United States and was corrupted by the velvety music underground:   In 1966, I came to New York for the first time. I was sent by my professors for a conducting contest. But right at the start, I met Terry Riley. He had this strange little grotto in the Bowery. We sat there night after night, and he made me play “de dah de dah de dah de”... me on the piano and him on the sax. At first I thought this was totally stupid. The result was that I was thrown out of the contest, because I missed certain rehearsals. I met Steve Reich, and he was also doing the “de dah de dah de”... but he was different, he had just finished a tape-loop piece. I was fascinated...When I founded the group I was a classical composer and conductor and pianist making piano recitals, playing a lot of contemporary music but also Brahms, Chopin and Beethoven and everything. And when we got together I wanted to do something in which all contemporary music becomes one thing. Contemporary music in Europe especially, the new music was classical music was Boulez, Stockhausen and all that. I studied all that, I studied Stockhausen but nobody talked about rock music like Sly Stone, James Brown or the Velvet Underground as being contemporary music. Then there was jazz and all these elements were our contemporary music, it was new. It was, in a way, much newer than the new classical music which claimed to be 'the new music'."

The collective initially included Holger Czukay on bass and tapes;  David Johnson on flute and tapes;  Michael Karoli on guitar;  Jaki Liebezeit on drums, flute, and percussion;  and Irmin Schmidt on organ and piano.  They called themselves Inner Space and played their first gig with guest vocalist Manni Lohe at Schloss Nörvenich, 14th-century castle in North Rhine-Westphalia, near Cologne, Germany.  It was documented in the 1984 release 'Prehistoric Future'.  

Schmidt says:  "We had to be [a rock band], it was destiny. When we started, we knew we wanted to do something spontaneous together. And it was necessary for music like this to make sense to have a rhythm. It was Jaki who created the rhythm. And once you have a rhythm, it became rock. And then one day, this friend of a friend, a painter and sculptor who was a friend of the composer Tcherepnin, we met in Paris, and we said, come visit us in Cologne. This was Malcolm Mooney. When he showed up, I just said, come with me to the studio, we are making music there. All of a sudden he took the mike and started singing. And this was like the ignition -- this gave the last kick toward rock. Between him and Jaki, who had already started to establish this hypnotic rhythm, all of a sudden Malcolm directed all this undecided energy in the group to this rhythm. He focused us all on Jaki’s rhythm. It was clear in this moment that this is where we had to go...We embraced it! This was ‘Father Cannot Yell’, the first piece."  

The group had by this point adopted the name The Can which Liebezeit later considered to be an acronym for "communism, anarchism, nihilism".  They built a recording studio at Schloss Nörvenich and called it Inner Space. 'Monster Movie'  was produced by the band and features Holger Czukay on bass [Red Armed Bass], and as technician [Technical Laboratory Chief];  Irmin Schmidt as coordinator [Adminaspace Co-Ordinator], and on organ [Organ Laser];   Jaki Liebezeit on drums, engineering [Propulsion Engineer], and other [Mystic Spale Chart Reader];   Michael Karoli on guitar [Sonar & Radared Guitar Pilot];   and Malcolm Mooney on vocals [Linguistic Space Communicator].  Some of the sessions were later released in 1981 as 'Delay 1968'.  

Much of the music they created was done spontaneously with extended jam sessions that would later be edited.  Czukay considers:   "What we did was not improvisation in the classical jazz sense, but instant composition. Like a football team. You know the goal, but you don’t know at any moment where the ball is going. Permanent surprise. Editing, on the other hand, is an act of destroying. And you should not destroy something if you don’t have a vision to establish it afterwards. If you have that vision you can go ahead and do that. Can was a band. The editing had to handled carefully, because it could destroy the character of the band."

Mooney revealed that the twenty minute piece 'Yoo Doo Right' that comprises the second side of the album was culled from twelve hours of tape:   "The recording, which started at about eleven a.m., ended at eleven p.m.. It was quite a session.  I left the studio at one time for lunch, when I returned the band was still playing the tune and I resumed where I left off. " 

'Monster Movie' has the subtitle "Made in a castle with better equipment".  Their creation was a unique sound that prefigured later trends in music such as  electronic, gothic,  industrial,  progressive, and punk.  At the time, they struggled for recognition, as Liebezeit would later recount:  "Can back then was not really noticed.  We were considered not to be as good as English bands. It was difficult in Germany in the beginning - they thought of us as a band that was trying to make rock music because they 'Can't'.  You see?  Can. Can't.  What we were doing was simply not recognized as rock music.  But that was the idea.  Not to copy English or American bands; but to find our own way, which differs from other countries.  In England, when we first played, they enjoyed it for that.  In Germany, they thought the same thing, 'It doesn't sound English!' and hated it!"

'Monster Movie' 
full album:

All songs written and composed by Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli, Jaki Liebezeit, Malcolm Mooney, and Irmin Schmidt. 

Side one
1. "Father Cannot Yell"   7:06
2. "Mary, Mary So Contrary"   6:21
3. "Outside My Door"   4:11
Side two
4. "Yoo Doo Right"   20:27

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