THERE'S SOMETHING MYTHOLOGICAL about the story of Can. When these three jazz, classical and Stockhausen-aware musos and a hip young guitarist decided “the past had to be cut” – against a backdrop of a Germany ravaged by war and the late ’60s’ psychedelic eruption of free thought – they met the challenge with a series of albums whose rhythmic force, extra-sensory range and staggering levels of creativity continue to break out and astonish. This heavily boxed, linen-wrapped package, which reproduces 14 albums over 16 180g discs, plus a two-track 12” of the group live in 1975, a booklet of immersed appreciation from literary Can-head Alan Warner and some repro gig posters, is a highly enticing way to revisit it.
“Rhythmic force, extra-sensory range and staggering levels of creativity.”
A superb, sympathetic remastering job brings the albums back into focus, from Ege Bamyasi’s combination of sweetness and darkness and Tago Mago’s inner space trip to the superlunary Future Days. While the later records access a calmer space, there is always surprise around the corner, as with All Gates Open off 1979’s swansong Can and practically all of the ’89 reunion LP Rite Time. The verboten Out Of Reach from 1978, long airbrushed from history, is not without its goofy appeal, while the live at Sussex University disc shows them in full flight. 1997 remix collection Sacrilege is, significantly, omitted.
It’s true, of course, that anyone devoted enough to get one – there are only 1,500 and they’re not cheap – will know the LPs well anyway, and some dedicated online searching could probably get you Can vinyl LPs with less outlay. Some sleeves are restored more fulsomely than others, too. But such is the appeal of the luxury product; as it sits there, sending out signals, from its yellow cuboid, The Can Vinyl Box is wildly covetable indeed.
And now, why not watch the Can section from the BBC’s Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany documentary. As bassman and tape splicer Holger Czukay observes, “Better a small bird in the hand than a pigeon on the roof.”