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Music Review: Irmin Schmidt And Inner Space – Kamasutra

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Fans of the legendary German band Can are pretty excited about this previously unreleased soundtrack from 1968. Although the disc is credited to Irmin Schmidt and Inner Space, Kamasutra is actually the first Can album. It has been in the vaults for the past four decades, and is now finally being released.

When Schmidt was commissioned to score the soft-core film Kamasutra, he assembled what became the original lineup of Can. Guitarist Michael Karoli, drummer Jaki Leibezeit, and vocalist Malcolm Mooney joined keyboardist Irmin Schmidt in the studio to lay down the various tracks that ended up being used on this soundtrack.

One of the things that makes Kamasutra so interesting is that you can hear everything Can were to do later here in condensed form. The soundtrack is almost a blueprint for the ideas they would fully explore on landmark albums such as Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, and Future Days.

The 16 pieces that make up Kamasutra break down into four categories. There is the six-part “Indisches Panorama,” the three-part “In Kalkutta,” three songs with vocals, and four miscellaneous cuts. Of the vocal tracks, fans should be delighted to hear the voices of both Michael Karoli and Malcolm Mooney appear here for the first time.

Karoli sings “I’m Around,” (which is exclusive to the CD version), and Mooney takes “There Was A Man.” “I’m Hiding My Nightingale,” is sung by Margareta Juvan. All three tunes are time-capsule material, sounding as groovy and far-out as one can imagine.

Much more to the point are Schmidt’s remaining 13 instrumentals. Just for fun I programmed my CD player to play all six sections of “Indisches Panorama” in a row, to see if they played as a whole. As befits soundtrack music, they really are not parts of a whole, just brief musical interludes. Parts 1-4 are very bucolic, while parts 5 and 6 are a little more musically adventurous.

The same holds true with the three sections of “In Kalkutta,” which are extremely disparate. “In Kalkutta I” seems to point in the world-music direction Can would one day pursue. The track that is probably closest to the Can of Future Days, and beyond is “Im Tempel,” very minimalist, and very forward-looking. “Mundharmonika Beat” is probably the oddest song on Kamasutra, as it is almost a Paul Butterfield Blues Band carbon.

The liner notes are exclusively about the film, which I guess is appropriate, this is a soundtrack after all. And for all I know, Kamasutra may actually be a lost classic. What I do know for certain though is that the release of this music is a welcome treat for those of us who consider ourselves Can-addicts.

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