With Can’s second quartet of albums (remastered and reissued by Mute/Spoon), hints of fallibility seep into its mighty sound. Not surprising: Few bands can maintain awesomeness for more than five consecutive records, as these German savants did. Future Days (1973), Can’s final album featuring idiosyncratic singer Damo Suzuki, marks the group’s last indisputable masterpiece. A unique opus in Can’s catalogue, it’s a four-track zenith of oceanic, euphoric rock that flirts with New Age music’s becalming, watery atmospheres, but ultimately tilts toward a cosmic diffusiveness that evokes your most blissful jacuzzi (or womb) experiences. The title cut is a gravityless cha-cha of exquisite charm and grace, while the percussion-happy “Spray” sounds like Bitches Brew executed by a superior alien race. The loony “Moonshake,” meanwhile, is Dada surf rock for the ages.
With Suzuki gone, drummer Jaki Liebezeit and guitarist Michael Karoli especially shine on Soon over Babaluma (1974). “Dizzy Dizzy” and “Come Sta, La Luna” smack of the novelty-tune gimmickry to which Can occasionally succumbed, though this band’s frivolities top most groups’ “important” statements. However, the scientific, combustible genius of “Splash,” “Chain Reaction,” and “Quantum Physics” foreshadow post-rock, led by Liebezeit’s advanced-calculus rhythms and Karoli’s scorchingly fluid guitar peals.
Landed (1975) is a sporadically brilliant mishmash of hot-rodding rock, bastardized world musics, and sprawling improv. “Full Moon on the Highway” is a Teutonic cousin to Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin'”; you can imagine Easy Rider‘s antiheroes blazing down the road to it. Elsewhere, “Vernal Equinox” is experimental glam rock at its most flamboyant, and the epic collage “Unfinished” finds bassist and producer Holger Czukay putting his Stockhausen schooling to, uh, canny use. Finally, Unlimited Edition (1976) collects eight years of “ethnic forgeries” and uncategorizable oddities from Can’s vast archives; it’s a fascinating sketchbook from the world’s most creative experimental-rock group. We shan’t hear their like again.