Quality: 5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5
This seems to be Can's concept album about a can of okra; okra destined for soup I suppose. Really, the concept doesn't matter at all. What matters is that this is the second album at Can at their absolute best. This time out Can only went for a single album as opposed to the mammoth Tago Mago, so Ege Bamyasi is a lot more focused too.
Whereas the last album was in large part drummer Jaki Leibezeit's showcase, this one puts vocalist Damo Suzuki front and center. Often there are long stetches of Can's music where we don't necessarily hear Mr. Suzuki for long stretches, but he's definitely splattered liberally across this album. That's not to say you should listen for lyrics. Suzuki continues to sing in a mumbly mixture of English, Japanese, and gibberish, but it's all about the feeling and how he melds in with the rest of the band as basically another instrument.
The basic sound gets a little jazzier here. While still providing perfect time, Leibezeit loosens up and reveals his original status as a jazz drummer and Michael Karoli manages some languid, fluid lines on guitar. "Pinch" is a precursor to the lighter, spacier sound that Can would explore on their next album, while "Sing Swan Song" does a fine job of reshuffling elements of Can's earlier approach to a quieter sound.
Unlike the majority of krautrockers, Can has an uncanny ability to sound a little loose and funky. Leibezeit and bassist Holger Czukay are still at the top of their game as a rhythm section and the amazing breakbeats of "Pinch," "Vitamin C," and "I'm So Green" are just waiting for a modern hip-hop producer to sample. As an added plus, these songs are much more accessible than a lot of Can's music and makes Ege Bamyasi the closest thing to a pop album that Can would make in their prime (late period Can tries to get poppy to disasterous results).
And one track here actually did have a slight taste of pop success. The closing track "Spoon" actually charted as a single and was apparently added to the album in post production. It's a fine tune, but part of me wishes that "Vitamin C" or "I'm So Green" had even more success on the charts.
Instead of devoting an entire album to insane experimental noise, Can plunges it all into the ten minute "Soup." It's much better integrated into the album than somethng like Tago Mago's "Peking O" and doesn't overstay it's welcome, at least not for me.
If you're new to Can, I'd say that Ege Bamyasi is probably the best place to start. It's a great summation of where the band had been while laying the groundwork for the equally classic Future Days. This is quintessential Can. And just for the record, I totally dig the goofy cover art.
Can - 1972 - Ege Bamyasi