Before listening to Future Days
for the first time I had previously listened to three other Can albums including Tago Mago
, Ege Bamyasi
, and Monster Movie
. I was both shocked and appalled when I first listened to the album, not only was it drastically different from the groups three earlier albums it was also a bit of a departure. Being familiar with a wide variety of krautrock groups it seemed as if Can had changed their sound from the acid-trippy/psychadelic (think Amon Duul II and Ash Ra Tempel) sound of the genre to the more soothing and calm keyboard driven sound (Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk). Although I love both Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk I had always enjoyed Can due to their bizarre experimentation and psychopathic sound.
The first thing that stood out was the huge change in production. On prior releases Jaki Liebezeits’ tribal drumming was turned up loud in the mix over the Irmin Schmidt’s swirling keyboard tones and Michael Karoli’s hypnotic guitar parts. Future Days
shows off Can’s more ambient side as Schmidts relaxing keyboard melodies and Karoli’s trance-inducing guitar segments take control of the sound. In result we get a very tame sound which is extremely unusual if you’ve heard Can’s earlier material. Damo Suzuki’s psychotic vocals have nearly vanished as well as Jaki Liebezeits’ pseudo-hip hop drum beats. The albums opening number ”Future Days”
demonstrates this change perfectly, Schmidts organic keyboard sparkles mix together with Karoli’s atmospheric guitar tones creating a warm, space-ambient tune. ”Spray”
uses the same type of formula only Liebezeits’ drumming plays a bigger role creating a more intense and ghostly vibe.
While the first two tracks are not horrendous they just leave me cold. The experimentation seems to have gone out the window as well as the creativity. Instead we are treated with laid-back synth effects and lazy guitar lines, Jaki’s drumming still plays a minor role in the music however the first two tracks come off as lukewarm ambient songs that are a poor mans Tangerine Dream at best. Out of nowhere appears ”Moonshake”
which an infectiously catchy reggae-influenced pop song, right when I thought Can was going down the drain they throw this three minute pop gem at my face. ”Moonshake”
is easily Cans most accessible song as it’s both catchy, funky, and shows off no odd experimentation. Right when you think that Suzuki and co. have gone a different direction the 20 minute ”Bel-Air”
starts playing. Kicking off with light synthesizer effects the song slowly builds up into an intense, psychadelic jam (that’s more like it!) Where Suzuki and co. start to experiment with their instruments creating more odd sounds and interesting rhythms. As a result we get a very loose jam session that goes through hard rocking, acid-drenched sections as well as calm, soothing bass driven parts.
Although I didn’t enjoy Future Days
as much as earlier Can material I can’t say that it’s a poor album. If anything it’s easily Can’s most accessible piece of work to date, if you’ve already tried Tago Mago
or Ege Bamyasi
and didn’t enjoy them then you might dig Future Days
just because it is a lot more laid-back and synth-laden. Older Can fans may be upset by the lack of wackiness and spontaintety however Future Days
is an easy way for any krautrock n00b to venture into the genre.