Can “Doko E” LP (2011)

LP coverNormally I try to avoid bootlegs.  Artists are usually getting screwed over enough as it is.  Can has tempted me out of that standard a few times now and in the end I couldn’t resist this latest ‘fan club’ record (as the sales person at the record store called it).  Can’s official albums, at least up to “Soon Over Babaluma”, have been such an important piece of my listening for decades now.  Having listened to these records over and over and knowing them inside and out, I have of course had a desire to here more.  Unfortunately little has been forthcoming from their archives.  So many bands have scraped the bottom of the barrel releasing all manner of things that should have stayed unreleased.  But here is a major band known for their extended live performances and improvisations as well having their own recording studio, and they never let anything out.  Not even bonus tracks on the reissues of their albums, when at least they could have included the two non-album b-sides from their early period.  Thankfully a few things have been leaked over time including BBC sessions and live recordings.   However, most stunning, and rare, have been some of the full length studio recordings.  This LP is the latest of those to appear with any semblance of availability.  The music must have have come from some close source as the sound quality is excellent even if it does have some tape hiss (which makes sense given the technology of the time).  The LP is named after the track which appeared on the “Limited Edition” LP (later reissued as the double “Unlimited Edition”).  But where the original release gave us only a two and a half minute tidbit, this LP is the whole 36 minutes.  Well, the first bit of side one sound like it might be another piece, but the majority is one long jam in the studio.  One thing that becomes obvious when hearing these full recordings is how much Holger’s editing really shaped the official albums by Can.  Anyone really closely listening to the song “Mother Sky” on “Soundtracks” should be able to pick up on how things were stitched together.  Let alone the more subtle work on other tracks throughout their discography.  Holger had a knack for isolating the best bits and putting them together as a complete album.  Which is why I think there have never been bonus tracks on the CD reissues of those albums.  Probably another part was the limitations of the LP format specifically in not accommodating 40 minutes pieces.  Which brings me to one shortcoming of the LP at hand.  The track listing on the back cover is simply “Doko E Part One” and “Doko E Part Two”.  And that is literally what it is.  The music stops at the end of side one to pick up again on side two where it left off.  The edit was at least good and is not totally jarring, but I can see how this would be better as an uninterrupted piece.  Sometimes people’s fetish with vinyl can cause little hiccups like this.  Still I am very glad to hear this whole piece which the officially released very is but a very tiny excerpt of.  The music is really solid throughout and a lot more energy fueled that the restrained, but excellent, “Future Days” album which was recorded around the same time as “Doko  E”.  This title track was seemingly edited down simply for the reason that there so little room on “Limited Edition” to feature so many great pieces.  Again it is criminal that a band of this calibre has so much amazing music in their archives which has been withheld, especially when there is so much substandard music by other artists out there. One unique aspect of this particular session is that Damo sings almost entirely in Japanese and he is a lot more comprehensible when speaking his native tongue.  At least as far as I can tell.  My understanding of Japanese has slipped a lot from lack of use.  ‘Doko e’ roughly translates to ‘going to’ which lines up with the one phrase in English heard here, “Go back to Germany.”  However, I do seem to remember the lyrics for this song being included in Pascal Bussy’s “Can Book”, one of the only times that Damo’s lyrics were committed to print.  The rest often remaining a mystery even to the other members of Can.  A lot of this is no doubt due to Damo’s heavy Japanese accent.  I became acutely aware of this some years back when I saw him ‘solo’ and I couldn’t even understand what he was saying when introducing his band without any music behind him.  Anyhow, despite claims of long time withholding, Can have finally made the first dip into their archives since “Unlimited Edition” for the release of “The Can Tapes”.  Unfortunately the longest tracks on this new triple CD collection fall short of 17 minutes, leaving full length performances like those on “Doko E” still unavailable.  The closest we get is the 29 minute version of “Spoon” on the recently expanded CD version of “Tago Mago” (which even sounds like it might have been edited).  I hope these things are a portent of more to be unleashed, but given the time it took to get here and the remaining member’s advancing age, I don’t expect too much.  So I broke down and bought “Doko E” for now.  Hopefully it will be obsolete some day.

FPK&S Records Nara – FPK&S 014