Can - Tago Mago (1971)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 1:22 AM

After Malcolm Mooney left Can in 1970 following a nervous breakdown, the remaining members were left without a vocalist. Bassist Holger Czukay happened to meet Kenji "Damo" Suzuki busking outside a cafe in Munich. He introduced himself as a member of an experimental rock band and invited Suzuki to join them. That evening, Suzuki performed with the band at the Blow Up club and subsequently became a member of Can.
Tago Mago was recorded in 1971 by Czukay in a castle near Cologne called Schloss Nörvenich. The band were allowed to stay there for a year without paying any rent by the owner, an art collector named Mr. Vohwinkel. This was the first of Can's albums to be made from not only regularly recorded music, but combined "in-between-recordings", where Czukay secretly recorded the musicians jamming while waiting for various technical problems to be resolved. Czukay would edit these long, disorganized jams into structured songs. Recording was completed in three months.

It was originally released as a double LP in 1971 by United Artists. In September 2004, the album, along with the majority of Can's discography, was remastered and released as a hybrid SACD. The rerelease includes a booklet with commentary on the album by Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream and David Stubbs, as well as previously unreleased photos of the band.

Julian Cope wrote in Krautrocksampler that Tago Mago "sounds only like itself, like no-one before or after", and described the lyrics as delving "below into the Unconscious". Tago Mago finds Can changing to a jazzier and more experimental sound than previous recordings, with longer instrumental interludes and less vocals; this shift was caused by the dramatic difference between Suzuki and the band's more dominant ex-singer Mooney. Can took sonic inspiration from sources as diverse as jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and from electronic avant-garde music.

"Paperhouse", the opening track, is one of the shorter songs on the album. Allmusic critic Ned Raggett depicted the song as "beginning with a low-key chime and beat, before amping up into a rumbling roll in the midsection, then calming down again before one last blast, and Dominique Leone, writing for Pitchfork Media, commented on the "gray, faintly ominous" mood of the piece. "Mushroom" is the following track, which Leone noted as having a darker sound than the previous song. As Piero Scaruffi wrote, "Suzuki's psychodrama in Mushroom is set in a rarefied atmosphere of skitting drums, booming bass and atonal guitar. "Oh Yeah" and "Halleluhwah" contain the elements that have been referred to as Can's "trademark" sound: "Damo Suzuki's vocals, which shift from soft mumbles to aggressive outbursts without warning; Jaki Liebezeit's mantric drumming; Holger Czukay's production manipulations (e.g. the backwards vocals and opening sound effects on 'Oh Yeah')." Both "Oh Yeah" and "Halleluhwah" emphasize repetitive grooves.

The second LP features Can's more avant-garde efforts, with Roni Sarig, author of The Secret History of Rock calling it "as close as it ever got to avant-garde noise music." Featuring Holger Czukay’s tape and radio experiments, the tracks "Aumgn" and "Peking O" have led music critics to write that Tago Mago is Can's "most extreme record in terms of sound and structure." "Aumgn" features keyboardist Irmin Schmidt chanting rather than Suzuki's vocals. The closing track, "Bring Me Coffee or Tea", is a much shorter track than the ones before it and was described by Raggett as a "coda to a landmark record." Piero Scaruffi depicted it as "basically a delirious hare-krishna chant for loose rock quintet, [pretending] to link the album to the contemporary fad of Eastern-tinged psychedelia."

The album was inspired by sorcerer Aleister Crowley which is reflected through the dark sound of the album as well as being named after Isla de Tagomago, an island which features in the Crowley legend. Czukay reflects that the album was "an attempt in achieving a mystery musical world from light to darkness and return".The group has referred to the album as their "magic record". The tracks have been described as having an "air of mystery and forbidden secrets".
Tracks
01. Paperhouse
02. Mushroom
03. Oh Yeah
04. Halleluhwah
05. Aumgn
06. Peking O
07. Bring me coffee or tea
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