Holger’s Radio Pictures

Turn the dials with your hand / Till you find the shortwave band


The sounds of the radio, especially the distant voices and atmospheric distortions of the shortwave band, were a continual presence in the work of the late Holger Czukay. The Canaxis piece on his first album outside Can (also known today as Canaxis) opens with a series of electronic bleeps reminiscent of (or maybe derived from) radio signals. In Czukay’s later TV appearances with Can he left the bass playing to Rosko Gee, preferring instead to stand at the side of the stage with a collection of radios and tape machines. On one of his first high-profile collaborations of the 1980s, David Sylvian’s Words With The Shaman, he’s credited solely with “radio”. The radio continued to provide source material for his subsequent collaborations and solo albums.

What you have here is my own mix of some favourite Czukay compositions all of which favour radio signals. The title is derived from the two tracks taken from the Full Circle EP, a collaboration between Czukay, Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit; Full Circle and Mystery are both labelled “RPS” or “Radio Picture Series”. Being numbered pieces this has always begged the question of where the other six in the series might be. Now the composer is gone we may never know.

Jah Wobble, Holger Czukay & Jaki Liebezeit—Full Circle R.P.S. (No. 7) (1981)
Holger Czukay—Music In The Air (1987)
Jah Wobble, Holger Czukay & Jaki Liebezeit—Mystery R.P.S. (No. 8) (1981)
Holger Czukay—Radio In An Hourglass (1992)
Holger Czukay—Traum Mal Wieder (1984)
Holger Czukay—Mirage (1999)

2 thoughts on “Holger’s Radio Pictures”

  1. Farewell Holger. Another hero down. Holger and Jaki in less than a year seems terribly unfair. Listening to Holger’s “short wave” music is instantly nostalgic and transporting for me since tuning into the short wave was one of the first things I did when I first given a radio. The idea of randomly eavesdropping into transmissions from the other side of the world was immensely exciting to a 10 year old in 70s Scotland. For better and worse, I suppose that’s something else that digital and the internet has killed off too.

  2. I think many people were the same with shortwave radios, I certainly was, spending a lot of time twisting the dial fractionally back and forth to modulate the bleepings.

    I’ve never seen it spelled out in any detail but there’s a clear connection between the inadvertent strangeness of shortwave and an enthusiasm for electronic music. Stockhausen had his own take on this with Kurzwellen but that piece is still a typical composition that just happens to use shortwave radios for some of the input. Czukay and Kraftwerk were among the first musicians to really appreciate shortwave signals (and all their attendant distortions) for themselves.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from { feuilleton }

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading