PASSPORT Cross-Collateral, Atco 36-107
CAN Soon Over Babaluma, United Artists UA-La 343
In post-war Germany there was an overwhelming resistance to anything American. The contention was, if it was American it was "stupid." In most areas this was something, but unfortunately it also included jazz and later r&b, as well as rock & roll. The musical backgrounds of young German musicians became primarily classical; German avantgarde music evolved from the classical school (Stockhausen, for example).
Now a couple of generations have passed since WW II and there is a fresh and exciting new wave of music coming out of Germany. The name of Passport's new album sums it up perfectly: "Cross Collateral." Klaus Doldinger and company are a group of musicians with superlative - backgrounds and complete technical knowledge of their instruments. It is this background that allows them the freedom to indulge in the musical expansion and electronic experimentation in evidence on their records.
"Cross-Collateral" is an accumulation of past musical experience on a group level. This makes it a free flowing and accessible album without losing any of the stimulation of personal expression, which is the basic idea of this type of music. Repeated listening will not dilute the musical experience for the listener. It is this allusive timeless quality which is lacking in the bulk of contemporary music. Passport have it, and use it.
Can, however, is a horse with a different collar. Coming from the same place, Can's approach is somewhat unique and may take more getting used to.
Formed in 1968 by Irmin Schmidt , a 25 year old orchestral conductor and pianist. Can is a totally improvisational group. Utilizing the openness and freedom of rock, Can's music is non electronic and deceptively simple. Can record in their own studio in a castle in Koln on two track recorders. Playing as a group, rather than featuring extended solos, the ensuing interaction is uncanny and truly telepathie.
"Soon over Babaluma" marks the first Can album (they total 8 or 9: 2 others have been released in the U.S.) which has no separate vocalist. The first was an American black, Malcolm Mooney ; the second, Damo Suzuki, a Japanese. (A German band with a Japanese lead singer?) The band is now down to the original quartet: Micheal Karoli, violin and guitar; Irmin Schmidt, keyboards: Jaki Liebezeit, percussion: Holger Czukay, bass.
All of the selections are part and parcel of the whole, with each section building off the previous part almost in suite fashion totally improvised. There are vocals, but not in the song lyric tradition. They are likewise improvised with the voice used as an instrument concerned with tone rather than mere words.
Both of these albums feature music for music's sake, but are of a quality that allows even the uninitiated easy access. Who could ask for more?