“Lost classics” are being unearthed and reissued with almost mechanical regularity these days, but I can think of almost none that are as curious, enjoyable, and significant as this one. For one, keyboardist Irmin Schmidt was one of the founding members of Can. Equally significantly, The Inner Space was actually an early incarnation of that same band (though they are sans Holger Czukay for these sessions). Still more compelling is the fact that “Kamasutra” was recorded in 1968, predating Can’s first release (“Monster Movie”) by a year. In essence, then, this is a proto-Can album that has gone unheard for four decades. And it is quite a good one.
The reason for that disappearing act most likely lies with the film itself, as “Kamasutra: Vollendung der Liebe” was a clumsy and kitschy early foray into erotic filmmaking (complete with educational digressions). Given the saucy action, copious flesh, and unintentional comedy that was flickering across the screen, it was probably inevitable that no one really paid much attention to the music- a situation that was not probably helped by the fact that Schmidt had not yet established himself as a composer. Nevertheless, he clearly took the job very seriously--aside from a few throw-away vocal pieces that seem have been dictated by the needs of the film, it sounds like Irmin made exactly the sort of album that he wanted to be making. In fact, this soundtrack seems much closer in spirit to artier later Can albums than the rockin’ Malcolm Mooney-era material that immediately followed it.
Interestingly, Schmidt uses keyboards very sparingly throughout the album. Instead, “Kamasutra” is dominated by Michael Karoli’s acoustic guitars, though they’re often enhanced by exotic instrumentation like flute, sitar, and tabla (to make it all sound appropriately Indian, I suppose). While the soundtrack is packed full of intricate, charmingly fragile, and irresistibly melodic guitar parts (particularly the recurring theme in the six-part “Indisches Panorama”), the best thing about the album is its feel rather than its content. With the exception of a few aberrations, most of the pieces are airy, unhurried, summery, and unapologetically human. Those are not the first qualities that I generally associate with these guys, but they are definitely welcome here.
I don’t think I would describe this album as some kind of life-changing masterpiece or anything, but it is instantly likeable and does not seem at all embarrassing when compared to Can’s more celebrated output (an achievement that is all the more notable when the music’s absurd original context is considered). Obviously, being a soundtrack, the music is generally incidental in nature, but there is at least one unquestionably excellent “song” included: the lengthy “Im Tempel,“ a cool and hypnotically rhythmic Eastern-tinged jam that allows drummer Jaki Liebezeit to get a little bit wild. However, even the briefest pieces usually feature something ear-catching. It doesn’t seem like Schmidt and Karoli were holding back their best material at all here, presumably because they had absolutely no idea how influential their other work would soon become. I will be listening to this album a lot. 8/10 -- Anthony D'Amico (28 July, 2010)