Image: Official Tago Mago Artwork
There’s something to be said for the artist’s ability to create prolonged music that, particularly in today’s alarming trend of the regressive attention-span, keeps the listener engaged throughout. While truly worthwhile workout-gems are increasingly difficult to unearth, occasionally, solid tracks crop up that encapsulate its beauty. This entry looks at some of history’s very best artists synonymous with the marathon track and rounds off with a host of releases that have invigorated the dying art in recent times.
Throughout the 1970s, German krautrock founding fathers Can composed an eclectic series of breathtakingly original music, exemplified in timeless back-to-back album releases Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi. It was during this period the avant-garde trailblazers mastered the art of the sonic marathon and gloriously discarded the unofficial rule book of running time constraints. Tracks such as Pinch and Oh Yeah last eight minutes or more and perhaps their greatest, Halleluwah, clocks in at a staggering eighteen.
Not a wasted note in earshot, Halleluwah highlights Can’s unmatched ability to compose genuinely authentic and innovative jams from scratch. This is perhaps the most impressive element of the pioneer group’s output, it is by and large born out of in-studio improvisation. Halleluwah stands the test of time while amazingly spanning the entire second side of the Tago Mago LP. You can find the seminal beast in two parts, here.
Throughout the same decade, Funkadelic put a similarly meaningful stamp on their own respective genre, through lauded releases from the eponymous Funkadelic to the often-cited One Nation Under a Groove, among others. On 1971’s Maggot Brain, the title track (10:20) features one of the greatest guitar solos in rock history, courtesy of Eddie Hazel. A rush of pure emotion, the story goes that the troupe’s architect George Clinton, in an LSD-driven plan told Hazel to go into a room and play as if he’d learned of his mother’s death and later found it to be a lie. The resulting solo saw the new track completed in one take, akin to Can’s penchant for off-the-cuff, impromptu creation.
Fast forward some years to the Stone Roses, whose indie-dance crossover appeal birthed genre-defining hits such as I am the Resurrection and Fools Gold. Continuing their evolution from pristine psychedelic pop to shoulder-shuffling funk, they followed the aforementioned hits with 1990 single One Love. Reaching no.4 on the UK singles charts, the 7-minute hit encapsulated the Madchester movement and is rumoured to have originally lasted half an hour! The single’s B-side however, Something’s Burning is a band at the absolute height of its music-making powers.
The 2010’s have seen the release of a respectable host of tracks that, while not as timeless or indeed lengthy as some of the classics discussed here, stand out from the work of their contemporary peers. Stone Roses comeback single Beautiful Thing, for instance, harked back to their groove-based peak. Other recent examples include the hard-edged krautrock and trumpet wails of Primal Scream’s extensive single, 2013, and Kasabian’s trip-hop gem, Treat, from the album 48:13. Furthermore, the dreamy escapism and haunting atmospherics of Peace’s cover of Binary Finary trance hit, 1998 is a justified 10 minute epic, while the disco-fused synthpop of lead single Let It Happen from Tame Impala’s Currents (2015) is a standout modern alternative hit.