Michael Karoli, guitarist, violinist, and vocalist for legendary German experimental act Can, died Saturday at the age of 53. Although a cause of death is not yet known, bandmate Holger Czukay reports

Michael Karoli, guitarist, violinist, and vocalist for legendary German experimental act Can, died Saturday at the age of 53. Although a cause of death is not yet known, bandmate Holger Czukay reports on his official Web site that the musician "died unexpectedly while playing his favorite instrument."

The youngest member of the group, Karoli first met Can bassist Czukay as a guitar student in Switzerland in May 1966. Later linking up with drummer Jaki Liebezeit and keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, the group's line-up was solidified in time for 1968's "Monster Movie." Can's formidable reputation was then cemented after a stunning series of early albums made with American vocalist Malcolm Mooney ("Monster Movie") and Japanese singer Damo Suzuki ("Tago Mago," 1971; "Ege Bamyasi," 1972; "Future Days," 1973).

With a rotation of vocalists, Can continued on a path of unabated experimentation for 20 years, releasing its swansong, "Rite Time," in 1989. The group has proven amongst the most influential in recent rock history, particularly for subsequent generations of experimental acts such as the Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Sonic Youth, and Tortoise.

On his Web site, Czukay reveals he last spoke to Karoli in October by phone to arrange a video interview so that the pair could go through their "common history." Hinting that Karoli was ill at the time of his death, Czukay writes, "[Michael] suggested to wait a bit longer, as it would appear to him speaking out his final testament. Thinking of his young children he tried to avoid this thought as they strongly needed [their] father. This afternoon I tried to confirm a date, a few hours too late."

While the group's core lineup had not performed under the Can moniker since 1977, its members have remained in close contact, frequently guesting on each other's recordings. Since 1997, Karoli, Czukay, Schmidt, and Liebezeit have staged a series of concerts featuring each of their solo projects. Next year, the group's own Spoon Records is planning to release a live album and DVD drawing from the 1997 and 1999 editions of these shows, as well a vintage 1973 performance.