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Johan Timman – Trip Into The Body

Artist: Johan Timman
Album: Trip Into The Body
Released: 1981 | Fleet
Recorded: 1980 | Netherlands
Players: Johan Timman

Track Listing:

  1. Trip Into The Body (6:30)
  2. The Brain (5:52)
  3. The Heart (4:03)
  4. The Blood (The March Of The White And The Red Corpuscles) (6:22)
  5. The Blood Cells And The Antibodies (Look Out For The Killer) (5:45)
  6. The Windpipe (0:43)
  7. The Lungs (5:12)
  8. The Hemoglobin (0:42)
  9. Inside The Tympanic Cavity (1:21)
  10. Hearing (Ocean Of Sound) (6:57)

There are moments of bliss in life where one thinks he’s got it. There’s nothing left to hope for; it couldn’t get any better than this. And at brief moments throughout this album, Johan Timman duplicates those feelings, but then, much like we humans are apt to do, attempts to stretch it out for longer than necessary, effectively ruining a beautiful thing. Maybe I am being too harsh, I really enjoy this album, and I incessantly bug all my musician friends to watch this video performance of “The Lungs”. Nonetheless, Mr. Timman seems to jerk it a little too hard sometimes. It’s okay, I would too if I could produce this all live. “The Lungs” would be my forty-five minute, adrenaline inspired super-epic.

Nonetheless, Mr. Timman surely recieves an ‘A’ for concept. Stevie Wonder had journeyed through ‘the secret life of plants‘ in 1979, but Johan upped the ante. Let’s write a soundtrack that would accompany a trip through the human body. Simply genius. I must say, however, I’m a sucker for any album claiming to be a soundtrack to anything thats not a major motion picture release. (Someone write me a soundtrack to lawn-mowing.)

“Trip Into The Body” leads things off with a vocoderized ‘human brain’ welcoming you on your voyage. The multi-layered MOOG funk begins almost immediately, yields to a playful chorus, then goes on for about two minutes two long. Again, a common problem when studio albums exclusively feature live solo-instrumentation.

On “The Brain”, the annoyance of synth cymbals is easily forgotten by the heavy orchestration. Several times throughout the album, Timman’s sequence choices remind me of orchestration Jon Brion would come to do in his early years (e.g. Rufus Wainwright’s self-titled album). Timman, much like Brion, does a fantastic job filling the entire spectrum of sound, not just here, but on the whole album. Why doesn’t everybody learn the piano first?

“The Heart”, cleverly or rather predictably (depending on how big of an asshole you’d like to be today) opens with a steady, pounding, rather-human-like (for electronic-percussion) beat. Steadily riding the fine line between campy and classic, the melody is solid, but the tone, perhaps merely a victim of time, runs the verge of being cheesy. Nonetheless, this is one song that doesn’t bore me.

The next two tracks are eerily similar in sound and structure, and each at least a minute too long. They both exude a haunting feel, even when things, musically, go major. Timman’s cleverness precedes him, however, as the riff for the next track, “The Windpipe” is hinted at several times in the second half of “The Blood Cells And The Antibodies”. I’m a sucker for the small things like that within an album.

“The Windpipe” and “The Lungs”, played together, highlight the peak of the album for me. Just watch this video (same as link above, fyi).

Ahh, “The Lungs”. Had I been born fifteen years earlier, something like this would have surely changed my teenage life in 1981. Too bad I was negative two at the time. I was instead stuck with a dead Kurt Cobain and bands that thought it’d be cool to just remove some of the strings from their instruments.

“The Hemoglobin” serves as an effective, yet forgettable track for travelling from the lungs to…

“Inside The Tympanic Cavity” things are simple, yet spooky. Droning synth’s throughout underlie a methodic, question and answer lead line. Unfortunately no definitive answers are given.

I want to like the last track, “Hearing (Ocean of Sound)” more than I do. It reminds me of Kraftwerk’s Computerwelt almost immediately, but is less edgy, less constrained, but harkens to earlier Kraftwerk efforts for its anthemic personality. Does it really need to be seven minutes long though? It’s more of a fishbowl of sound, you can grasp it all rather fast.

All in all, I do need to track down a physical copy of this. It is great, it really is. It is also a bit dated, but when you dedicate an album to one electronic instrument that result is almost unavoidable. Regardless, I feel it is a critical part of music, let alone electronic music, history. Does any one man attempt to do similar things live anymore? Not that I’ve seen.


Album Unity: 9
Longevity: 6
Musicianship: 8
Originality: 9
Production: 7

Total Score: 39

20 May, 2008 Posted by | analog, berlin school, electronic, experimental, synth-pop | 10 Comments

Monster Movie – Can

Monster Movie Artist: “The” Can
Album: Monster Movie
Released: 1969 | Mute
Recorded: 1968-1969 | Bodenstein Castle, Köln, Germany
Players: Holger Czukay (bass guitar, sound engineer, electronics), Michael Karoli (guitar, violin), Jaki Liebezeit (drums), Malcolm Mooney (vocals), Irmin Schmidt (keyboards, vocals)

Track Listing:

  1. Father Cannot Yell (7:01)
  2. Mary, Mary So Contrary (6:16)
  3. Outside My Door (4:11)
  4. You Doo Right (20:20)

Can’s debut album, Monster Movie, opens with the sounds of a Lou Reed-style side-project exploring punk and electronic music. The high highs and dissonant, feedback-laden guitar quickly bring to mind Cloud Taste Metallic-era Lips. As the drum and bass take things for an intense, slightly loopy twist, Mooney (half of the inspiration for the name of modern quintet, The Mooney Suzuki, Mooney’s replacement Damo Suzuki being, of course, the other) begins a Morrison-esque poetry/chanting session. “Father Cannot Yell” ends with nothing short of punching, pounding and squealing ecstasy.

Again sounding a bit like the Velvet Underground in steady, jangle-rock production, Can uses a common, traditional nursery rhyme for inspiration on “Mary, Mary So Contrary.” Karoli’s violin and Mooney’s emotion and spontaneity hold things together for an otherwise fairly straightforward piece, actually slightly reminiscent of “Heroin” towards the end.

“Outside My Door” really rocks my ass off for four straight minutes. It reminds me of some sort of pre-punk southern rock symphony written by a bunch of European lads. Though the chorus recalls Manzarek and The Doors, listening to “Outside My Door” is like seeing fossils of the ancestors of all garage, punk and progressive bands since the late sixties.

The final track checks in at just over twenty minutes, allegedly cut from a jam session originally running between six and twelve hours long (depending whom you ask), mixed and mastered by bassist Holger Czukay. A playful and uplifting track, “You Doo Right” highlights the repertoire of player Jaki Liebezet better than the previous three. What seems to be a heartfelt, lyrical celebration of love, Malcolm Mooney’s yelping draws comparisons to early Gordon Gano at times. Any one song that can seem to combine this with Mogwai-like progressive qualities and flicks and splatters of Pearl Jam’s No Code, all while being very entrenched in the roots of African tribal music, should be respected for the important part in musical history that it is.

“You Doo Right” did in fact stir up the new sound, the future of Can, heard on the following albums, Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi. The only drawback I have with Monster Movie is the lacking production at some key moments. As far as debut’s are concerned, however, this one is as ground-breaking as any other rock group’s from this era.

 

Can, 1968
Can in 1968
Jaki Liebezeit, Michael Karoli, Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay, Malcolm Mooney

 

Can, 1989
Can in 1989
Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli, Irmin Schmidt, Malcolm Mooney, Jaki Liebezeit

 

Can, “Vernal Equinox” on the BBC, 1975

 

Brian Eno’s Tribute to Can


Album Unity: 7
Longevity: 9
Musicianship: 7
Originality: 10
Production: 5

Total Score: 38

23 August, 2006 Posted by | electronic, experimental, experimental rock, kraut rock, progressive-rock, rock | 7 Comments