Sunday, March 03, 2024

Abstract Natural: 3 Phases of Damo Suzuki

Can - Paperhouse (WDR 1971)

Let's March with the first missive of the month, fittingly made in tribute to a kind of itinerant musical mover that parachuted from city to city, spreading his message of The Eternal Now in which we all, like it or not, must dwell.

I met him once, or should I say he met me? Back in 2009, I think it was.

A friend/musical cohort and I were sitting around with The Devil's Lettuce one day and saw online he was gonna play in a few hours, not two miles from our Oaklandish-ish location.

We got down to the venue in about the time it took for me to type that last sentence, only to find we were early and the thing was just being set up. It was inside this sort of hardwood gymnasium, ringed by basketball hoops, in a school as I remember it.

Everyone filed in and a long table was set up for our hero to sign autographs and so forth. My friend and I stood off to the side, watching the queue go by.

Notoriously accessible as he was, once the line was gone and everybody had their stuff signed, he pointed right at my buddy and I and motioned for us to join him at the table.

We did a sort of classic "Moi?", dumbfounded as to why he wanted to talk to us. It took years for me to understand what he was up to, but in the moment he grabbed a poster and signed it to me whilst asking what brought us out to see the show.
Autographs and celebrity hunting aren't really my bag, but this remains the only time in 57 years of life that a famous person has ever insisted on giving me theirs.

When I was researching this post, I came across an interview with him from the 2000s, where he goes into the way he tries to personally vibe an audience before a gig, and how speaking with the people who come to see him informs the content and tonality of his improvisation throughout the concert.

Decades before that day -- and nearly 55 years ago now -- this man, by pure hippie happenstance, was afforded the opportunity to join an up-and-coming German band called Can, whose rhythm section saw him performing on the street and asked him, right off the strasse, along to sing on their show that very night.

Once informed there would be zero rehearsal, he improvised with them for the next four nights at the club in 
Köln at which they were then booked. The rest, as we know, is pretty essential music history that all kids should be taught about in the classroom, and not just in the gymnasium.

He stuck around with them for three world-altering years, before taking a 10-year break to start a family and then -- in the mid-1980s -- embarking on a career odyssey that saw him sitting in with a different band in almost every city on Earth, flying hither and yon to announce his gospel of emotional immediacy coupled with a trademark, mystifying abstraction.

Kenji Suzuki -- whom the world shall ever know as, simply, Damo -- is gone now, from the colon cancer he battled for a decade before succumbing a few weeks ago at 74.

His physical body notwithstanding, an astounded appreciation for the vocal dexterities he possessed -- as widely imitated across all popular music today as any vocalist of our lifetimes -- will be passed along to future generations and be a part of this world long after everyone we currently know, including ourselves, is dead.

So this one's for Damo, whose entire, pulsating being was a living masterclass of The Moment.

3 Phases of Damo Suzuki

"Soundtrack Sequel"
on film, radio & TV

01 The Inner Space/One (Inner Space 1972)
02 Mother Sky (WDR 1970)
03 Deadlock (WDR 1970)
04 Halleluwah (WDR 1971)
05 Paperhouse (WDR 1971)
06 I'm Too Leise (Inner Space 1972)
07 Vitamin C (Inner Space 1972)
08 Bring Me Coffee Or Tea (Inner Space 1972)
09 untitled improvisation (BBC 1973)
10 One/Shikako Maru Ten (Inner Space 1972)

Total time: 1:19:54

Damo Suzuki - vocals & percussion
Irmin Schmidt - keyboards
Holger Czukay - bass
Michael Karoli - guitar
Jaki Leibezeit - drums

Tracks 01-08 & 10: assorted TV & film segments, 1970-72
individually remastered by EN from the best available sources, February 2024
Track 09: recorded for the BBC @ Paris Theatre, London UK 1973
unknown gen off-air cassette capture remastered by TomP in 2020, with additional +2dB volume boost by EN, February 2024
465 MB FLAC/link below

Munich, Germany 

01 Keine Python
02 Radio Belfue
03 Serial Number
04 Shadogs
05 For Munich -- Improvisation
06 Beside the Light
07 Distant Drums
08 SO 36
09 Watch On My Head
10 Sunday Morning
11 I See Your Smile
12 closing jam

Total time: 1:14:11

Damo Suzuki - vocals & percussion
Dominik Von Senger - guitars
Rike Gratt - bass
Matthias Keul - keyboards
Olek Gelba - percussion
Reiner Linke - percussion
Stefan Krachten - drums
Wolfgang Schubert - saxophones

master off-air FM cassette from analog cable
edited, declipped & retracked -- with 1st 5 tracks boosted +2dB to match remainder -- by EN, February 2024
cover thumbnail drawing by Damo
489 MB FLAC/link below

Damo Suzuki & Jelly Planet
Burg Herzberg Festival 2002
Hof Huhnstadt
Hessen, Germany

01 introduction/Damo+JP I
02 Damo+JP II
03 Damo+JP III
04 Damo+JP IV

Total time: 49:44

Damo Suzuki - vocals & percussion
Alex Schoenert - guitars
Stephan Hendricks - keyboards
Felix Gutierrez - bass
Jens Kuechenthal - drums

alleged to be a MiniDisc capture from the soundboard, but there's no evidence of MD lineage I can see
this music is 100% spontaneously composed
edited & slightly remastered by EN, February 2024
direct link to folder with all 3 phases of Damo

I worked for days spiffing these shows up -- the (oh my, it's impossibly killer) 1985 set was taped 39 years ago today! -- and I meticulously created the Can volume from scratch as its own kind of monster movie, so if Damo is your guy this post has you written all over, up and down and across it.

I shall return soon with a monumental measure of March music madness, but I had pull out a few stops to say farewell to Damo Suzuki, who was as nice to me for the five minutes we spoke as any major figure has ever been.
And whose life, beyond that mere five minutes, left an indelible mark that will never fade. Farewell, but not goodbye... because as long as humans have a sincere song to sing, Damo can never die. {{{cries}}}--

1.16.1950 - 2.9.2024

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