18 of October 1970. The country is West Germany. You switch on the television and as you wait for it to warm up, the faint humming noise of the tube starts to transform into distant drumming that becomes louder and louder and just as the colourful small yellow and black rhombus patterns fill the screen, a frantic splash of musical beat anounces TETV präsentiert: DAS MILLIONEN SPIEL. It's a film made for the WDR television channel, based on Robert Sheckley's short story "The Prize of Peril". The protagonist of the story takes part in a television reality show where he has to survive being hunted down by a killing squad. If he manages to survive, he can take away one million deutsche mark. If he loses, well, he loses his life. The very distinctive music of the opening titles for this film was created by "Innerspace Productions". Another name for Germany's foremost experimental krautrock band, CAN.
Revisiting these "lost" music fragments of a bygone era in CAN's "The Lost Tapes" 3 LP box, is a treat. Containing recordings spanning probably the most creative period of the band from 1968 to 1973, this archive material manages to convey the whole palette of CAN's music and sound experimentation from ambient textures to 15 minute wild live rock and fusion excursions. Studio doodles and moments of genius, contrasting moments of loose improvisation and tightly controlled segments of lucidity that have even commercial appeal, it's all there.
Czukay's loops in millionenspiel gets the adrenalin flowing as you follow the frantic efforts of the protagonist running for his life. One year after this recording, CAN would also frantically escape the hired killers of commercial aspirations, producing the holy trinity of albums in their catalogue ("Tago Mago" in 1971 broke all barriers of structure, content and feel in music. It was followed in 1972 by "Ege Bamyasi" redefining the word psychedelic and then "Future Days" in 1973 stepping into distorted, avant garde ambient territory). Now, I am not very sure CAN got their reward of one million deutsche mark but they certainly deserved it. They survived and their music sounds as fresh and mind blowing today as it did in the early 70s.