In 1969, CAN began a quest to explore sonic territory no rock band had before, and fifty years later, it’s still impossible to describe their sound or label them. We would need nothing less than a weighty tome or seven-part Ken Burns documentary to produce a satisfying description, but here’s an attempt.
Apart from Kraftwerk, CAN was among the most commercially successful groups to emerge from the intrepid Krautrock scene. Like their contemporaries, their feet were planted in both psychedelic and electronic music, with ears pointed toward the sounds of the post-war avant-garde. In particular, CAN was partial to the American minimalists like Terry Riley and La Monte Young; and if rock and roll did not “corrupt” him (in his own words), CAN keyboardist Irmin Schmidt’s career likely would have sounded a lot closer to Brian Eno’s ambient era.
That said, CAN’s 1973 record Future Days is the closest they ever got to the minimalist approach in its affinity with the repetitious and hypnotic. However, CAN twisted the sound with an infusion of Krautrock’s relentless pummeling percussion, wild improvisation, and Damo Suzuki’s fevered stream-of-consciousness vocal style.