Released in 1970, Soundtracks is the second album by Can, one of the greatest Krautrock bands. It is their first record featuring the legendary Japanese vocalist Damo Suzuki, and contains hints of the dark psychedelic funk sound they would explore much further on their next album, the masterpiece Tago Mago.
Soundtracks is exactly what its name suggests: a collection of pieces written for films. Tracks 1 to 3 are from Roland Klick's Deadlock, a psychedelic gangster western about bank robbers fleeing to the Mexican Sierra. The two versions of the title theme are 'sauerkraut western' doomsday marches with wailing guitar and organ and pounding drums, rivalling Ennio Morricone's The Good, The Bad and the Ugly soundtrack for over-the-top drama. The eerie 'Don't turn the light on, leave me alone' is from Leonidas Capitanos's infamous skin flick, Cream.
'Soul Desert' from Roger Fritz's Madchen mit Gewalt, and 'She Brings The Rain' from Thomas Schamoni's Bottom both feature Can's first vocalist Malcolm Mooney, an African-American sculptor. The latter track mentions magic mushrooms, and perhaps he'd had a few too many because Mooney left the band after going completely nuts, Syd Barrett-style. At one gig, he started singing "upstairs, downstairs" over and over, then continued when the band finished playing, and only stopped three hours later to collapse. After a half-year break, the band discovered Damo Suzuki busking on the street and recruited him as the replacement. I think Suzuki is clearly the better singer. Mooney's performance on 'She Brings The Rain' is nice but not freaky enough, while his shrieking on 'Soul Desert' lacks subtlety. Suzuki is perfectly crazy, with a huge range of whispers and wails. His English is pretty terrible, but it doesn't really matter, and actually seems quite appropriate for a weird drug-crazed Japanese/German version of American styles of music.
Vocals is not the only department in which Can's sound changed throughout the recording of Soundtracks. For much of it, as on their first album, the rhythms are strictly motorik, the Velvet Underground-inspired, straight endless German road. The best example here is 'Mother Sky', from Jerry Skolimovsky's Deep End, the story of a disastrous love triangle set in a London public baths. It's Can's own version of the Velvets' Sister Ray, fifteen minutes of motorik madness, always threatening to explode but held back by the hypnotic metronomic beat. However on 'Tango Whiskeyman', after an edgy rigid beginning, there is a sudden burst of syncopated drumming inspired by the then-very-recent rhythm-oriented works of James Brown. From here on, Can would leave their fellow Krautrockers Neu! to be the definitive motorik band, to pursue their own more funky direction.
1. Deadlock - 3:25
2. Tango Whiskeyman - 4:02
3. Deadlock (title music) - 1:40
4. Don't Turn the Light on, Leave Me Alone - 3:42
5. Soul Desert - 3:46
6. Mother Sky - 14:30
7. She Brings the Rain - 4:04