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Irmin Schmidt - Kamasutra Vollendung der Liebe

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Artist: Irmin Schmidt

Album: Kamasutra Vollendung der Liebe

Label: Crippled Dick Hot Wax

Review date: Mar. 4, 2010

Enough is never enough. Itís nearly a quarter century since Can last played Can music together, and with guitarist Michael Karoli dead for eight years, that isnít going to happen again. But once a band has been anointed with godhead status, people want to hear more. Can have already added to the canon with the posthumous compilation Cannibalism 2, a Peel Sessions disc and a live box. But it turns out thereís more. One way Can paid the bills in their early days was by recording soundtrack music, much of which can still only be heard by watching movies like Alice in den Stade (Alice in the Cities). And at least for now that remains the case. But four decades after its theatrical release, you can finally hear the soundtrack to Kamasutra: Vollendung der Liebe (Consummation of Love).

Kamasutra was made in 1968, around the time that studios figured out that if you excused the baring of breasts with an edifying premise, people would line up to see your movie. If youíre a psychotronic connoisseur, the discís booklet might pique your interest with its not-too-racy still images of press glossies, but the music should be sufficient for the rest of us. For although the soundtrack is credited to keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, itís really the work of a prototypical line-up of Can called Inner Space that was active in 1968. Alongside Can stalwarts bassist Holger Czukay, guitarist Michael Karoli, and drummer Jaki Liebezeit were songbird Margarete Juvan and two Americans, soon-to-depart flutist David Johnson and just-arrived singer Malcolm Mooney. Excepting Juvan, theyíd all already worked together on the ripping garage rocker ďFather Cannot Yell,Ē which would turn up on Canís debut album Monster Movie (although it bears noting that Johnson only operated the tape deck that day). The sextet recorded just one other time, to make the music for Kamasutra.

Some of Canís signature sounds were already in place. Liebezeit, a disillusioned former free jazz drummer, had already figured out how to play elaborate figures without betraying the groove; Czukay, who was just beginning to get familiar with his electric bass, played simply but melodically. Despite being credited as the leader, Schmidt was as unfamiliar with pop music as Czukay was with his instrument and hadnít figured out what to do in that context yet; his organ and electric piano keep a pretty low profile. So itís Karoliís already distinctive guitar and Johnsonís patchouli-fragrant flute that bring the tunes to balance Liebezeitís beats. Since the movie has an Indian theme, thereís also a little sitar in the background.

You can hear their debt to the Velvet Underground in Karoliís strumming on ďIndisches Panorama IIIĒ and standard-issue blues-rock on ďMundharmonika Beat,Ē which features Mooney huffing gamely on a harmonica. He only gets one vocal number, a middling beat tune named ďThere Was A ManĒ; the other vocal track is a dreamy trifle by Juvan that sounds as indebted to California pop-folk as Judy Dyble-era Fairport Convention. Since itís a soundtrack, most of the 14 instrumental pieces glide by fairly quickly, establishing a mood and then fading out.

Kamasutra is hardly top-drawer Can, but it still has a lot to offer both obsessive fans and more casual appreciators of í60s exoticism. Thereís nothing is as raw and alien as Monster Movie or as vivid as Movies, but itís never less than diverting.

By Bill Meyer

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