Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit - Full Circle

Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit
Full Circle

Released 1982 on Spoon/Virgin
Reviewed by Lord Lucan, 24/06/2000ce

I have never understood why this record has always been so overlooked and severely underestimated. Even in the tons of praise heaped on Can in recent years the cursory mention given to the solo recordings of Can members tends to ignore or dismiss this fantastic disc.

During Can’s later years the influences of dub and ‘world’ music watered down the unhinged aggression and sheer naked artistic intent of their earlier recordings. However, here those influences give the record a hue, rather than sloppily splashing gaudy colour all over the place. The zany professor tendencies which Holger exhibits to occasionally irritating effect in his solo work are reigned in here as he has to restrain himself in the context of his collaborators.

Reading between the lines of the statements made about this collaboration by all concerned it seems that Wobble’s relationship with Czukay and Liebezeit wasn’t totally harmonious. Maybe this is the reason why there is a distinct lack of the mawkish sunniness which ruined later Can records, although the fallout from Jah Wobble’s involvement in PIL’s ‘Metal Box’ is also a major factor. Whatever the reasons, there is definitely a darker, more sinister edge to this record than anything the Can members had recently recorded.

‘How Much Are They?’ is a dubby dance tune with klanky rhythm-box and beautiful, warm bass. The music flies all over the room. Infact the same could be said of all the tracks on this LP. Tapes play backwards, instruments sound like they’re being played outside one minute, then right next to your ears the next. Wobble’s vocals are Shaun Ryder rough (specially on ‘Trench Warfare’). There’s dissonance all over the place. Guitar pickings, french horn, keyboards and tapes drop in and out with no immediately apparent logic. I’m making this sound like a mess, I know, but don’t forget that Holger Czukay’s in charge of the tapes, so the chaos is never allowed to take over. This album is one of the best editing jobs in music. Jaki’s fluid yet precise drumming is the glue holding it all together. The wanky EFS concept Can loved so much is mutated into the RPS (Radio Pictures Series) concept on two of the tracks on this record. As the name suggests radio samples fly around the mix as the Jah bass and Liebezeit sticks keep a head-nodding dub a-rolling. ‘Mystery RPS (No.8)’ is one of the most strangely beautiful pieces of music. It’s like Stockhausen’s moment form, but with gorgeous, stoned, seductive sounds instead of spiky, confrontational noises. Beguiling is the word. ‘Can you feel the wind?’ indeed. Mmmmm…yum!

Oh, and all this packaged in beautiful sleeve-art depicting a post-war radio receiver.

My involvement with this record is hardly an objective one. The only Can I had heard up until this point was on Cannibalism, which with my limited funds was the only Can CD I could afford at the time. It was played incessantly, much to the bemusement of my flat-mates. I then spotted ‘Full Circle’ in a second-hand record shop and, recognising the names on the sleeve, was compelled to buy it. Especially as it was so cheap. It was not what I was expecting after my baptism of ‘Mother Sky’, ‘Spoon’ etc. In fact I hated it and thought I’d wasted my money. It took a while to get over the feeling of being burnt. However, as with many of the things I don’t initially like, I eventually started to love this record with a passion and realised this was indeed an artistic triumph. ‘How Much Are They?’ was going round and round and round… Then I started dabbling in LSD. Same thing as the record, really: Didn’t like it particularly to start with then wanted to convert the whole world to my 24 hour acid habit.
This record and the Can compilation mentioned earlier then took on a life of their own. ‘Full Circle’, whilst tripping was mind-blowingly fantastic. It had just the right level of edginess and creepiness along with subtle, but thoroughly disorientating effects, ‘samples’ and tape-editing. It also seemed to have no historical context, and still doesn’t sound bound to any particular year or decade, even.

This CD has endured (which is why it is fitting that it be included here), and gets played at regular intervals. I have, over the years, listened to it in all sorts of chemically altered states (and straight, of course). It works with all of them, which is more than can be said for most overtly druggy records, which try too hard.

If you track this disc down do not hesitate to buy it. You may think I’m mad when you first hear it, but like I said, this music gives its treasures up slowly. If you already have it and haven’t heard it for a while dig it out of your collection again skin up and repeat play, repeat play, repeat play.

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