A History of Space #5: Technical Space Composer’s Crew

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Technical Space Composer’s Crew – Canaxis 5 (1969, Music Factory)

Well the History of Space keeps chugging along (only 95 more to go!). This recording is a seminal one in my little historic endeavor, given that it is the first purely experimental sound album (no instruments, I am pretty sure) that I’ve included. Furthermore, it is probably the most fitting of the description I gave this project and would definitely be a top 10 if my list and ambitions were that diminutive. It is easily one of the most innovative recordings ever, has an untold influence on avant-garde music and is off of most people’s radar.

Holger Czukay is known as one of the founding fathers of the universally-accepted-as-bad-ass CAN. He's a fantastic bassist and possibly even more impressive sound engineer. Czukay was very prolific in his own solo work with sound collage as well, but Canaxis 5 predates them all. As a student of the OG of electronic music himself, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Czukay began his foray into the world of music by experimenting with different sounds not necessarily his own. In 1969 he put out this album in collaboration with painter Rolf Dammers as a sort of “acoustic sound painting”.

You really need two hands to count all the innovations that Czukay could without much argument be credited with: tape loops, ambient music, incorporation of “world” music, mixing western and eastern music, sampling, and the list goes on. He did all this through a mix of western technology and eastern spirituality, arguably before any of the other krautrock bands, avant composers or Brian Eno did. White noise is sampled into ambient atmospherics while looping electronics pile layers upon field recordings from Vietnam, China, etc. to create a hypnotic blend of east and west, technological and human. Sound like anything you’ve heard before? Pretty much a majority of experimental music working away from the dynamic of the traditional band set up, right?

Not to say that this is something you will put on to blow away your friends. Admittedly, the appeal of this recording is largely academic, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. Great for spacing out or focusing in on your homework, Czukay’s use of electronics and tape loops were at the beginning stages of what would become a more refined ability within CAN and later solo projects. Still, this earliest document still runs fluidly. It won’t do much to separate itself from similar music when listened to in a vacuum, but hey, he did it about 40 years before “tropical” was considered a legitimate way to describe bland neo-psyche that wouldn’t exist without him.