Krautrock (also called kosmische Musik, German: cosmic music) is a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s among bands who blended psychedelia with electronic music and the avant-garde, as well as other influences including funk, musique concrète, jazz, and minimalism. Artists largely distanced themselves from the traditional blues influences of Anglo-American rock music, instead embracing hypnotic rhythms, tape editing techniques, and early synthesizers. Prominent groups associated with the krautrock label included Neu!, Can, Faust, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Harmonia, Popol Vuh, and Amon Düül II.
The term "krautrock" was coined by British music journalists in the early 1970s as a humorous umbrella label for the diverse German scene, though many so-labeled artists disliked the term. The movement was partly born out of the student movements of 1968, as German youth sought a unique countercultural identity and a form of music distinct from imported Western popular music and traditional German music. The period contributed to the development of ambient music and techno, as well as post-punk, post-rock and new-age music.
|Cultural origins||Late 1960s – early 1970s, West Germany|
Krautrock is a broad label encompassing diverse sounds and artists. The style saw artists merge elements of psychedelic rock, the avant-garde, electronic music, funk rhythm, jazz improvisation and world music styles, and expands on the type of musical explorations associated with art rock and progressive rock. Critic Simon Reynolds described the style as "where the over-reaching ambition and untethered freakitude of late '60s acid rock is checked and galvanised by a proto-punk minimalism ... music of immense scale that miraculously avoided prog-rock's bombastics." Groups synthesised rock and roll rhythm and energy with a desire to distance themselves from specifically American blues origins, drawing on German or other sources instead. Jean-Hervé Peron of Faust said: "We were trying to put aside everything we had heard in rock 'n' roll, the three-chord pattern, the lyrics. We had the urge of saying something completely different."
Journalist Jon Savage of The Guardian named composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, American bands the Mothers of Invention and the Velvet Underground, and English band Pink Floyd as core influences. According to Peel, the only American or British band to "clearly influence" the genre was Pink Floyd, particularly for their "spacey music". Other influences included American minimalists such as Tony Conrad, Terry Riley, and La Monte Young, as well as the late '60s albums of jazz musician Miles Davis. Some artists drew on ideas from 20th century classical music and musique concrète, particularly composer Stockhausen (with whom, for example, Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay of Can had previously studied), and from the new experimental directions that emerged in jazz during the 1960s and 1970s (mainly the free jazz pieces by Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler). Moving away from the patterns of song structure and melody of much rock music in America and Britain, some in the movement also drove the music to a more mechanical and electronic sound.
The Stranger called krautrock an "innovative reconstruction of rock and electronic music." Shindig! described the style as "avant-garde musical collages of electronic sounds, rock music, and psychedelia," and noted the style's "characteristic improvisation and hypnotic, minimalistic rhythms." Los Angeles Magazine described it as a "hypnotic, piston-pumping genre [...] where drummers pounded out tightly-wound beats, bassists thumped pulsing notes, and zoned out singers warbled over it all in an absurdist drone," summarizing it as "where American psychedelica meets icy Germanic detachment." According to The Line of Best Fit, some typical characteristics include "steady 4/4 beats, hypnotic, droning rhythms, and shimmering keyboards." Artists used early synthesizers and experimented with tape music techniques.
Motorik is the 4/4 beat often used by drummers associated with krautrock. It is characterised by a kick drum-heavy, pulsating groove, that created a forward-flowing feel. The motorik beat was first used by Neu! on their debut album and was later adopted by other krautrock bands. It has been widely used in many different styles of music beyond krautrock. According to XLR8R, the term krautrock is often used by critics to signify the "mesmerizing motorik rhythms pioneered by Can and Neu!," but contested that "they represent merely a tiny fraction of the music that emerged from Germany during Krautrock's Golden Age." Matt Bolton of The Guardian makes a similar point, arguing that "Neu!'s streamlined instrumentals [...] certainly have little in common with Can's eclectic experimentalism, Amon Düül II's improvisational space rock or Faust's cut-and-paste sound collages.
|Cultural origins||Early 1970s, West Germany|
Kosmische Musik ("cosmic music") is a term which came into regular use before "krautrock" and was preferred by some German artists who disliked the English label; today, it is often used synonymously with krautrock or as an analogue to the English term "space rock." The term more specifically describes a style closely related to 1970s German electronic music which uses synthesizers and incorporates themes related to space and otherworldliness. The style was often instrumental and characterized by "spacy," ambient soundscapes. Writer Thomas Jerome Seabrook named German producer Conny Plank as a central figure in the kosmische sound, citing his attention to texture, effects processing, and tape-based editing techniques. Plank oversaw kosmische recordings such as Kraftwerk's Autobahn, Neu!'s Neu! 75, and Cluster's Zuckerzeit.
The term "kosmische Musik" was coined either by Edgar Froese in the liner notes of Tangerine Dream's 1971 album Alpha Centauri or by record producer Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser as a marketing name for bands like Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze. These artists used synthesizers such as the EMS VCS 3 and Moog Modular, as well as sound processing effects and tape-based approaches. They largely rejected rock music conventions, and instead drew on "serious" electronic compositions such as those of György Ligeti. The following year, Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser's Ohr Records released the compilation Kosmische Musik (1972) featuring tracks by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Ash Ra Temple, and Popol Vuh. Kaiser eventually began referring to the style as "cosmic rock" to signify that the music belonged in a rock idiom. Several of these artists would later distance themselves from the term. The style would later lead to the development of new-age music, with which it shared several characteristics. It would also exert lasting influence on subsequent electronic music and avant-garde rock.
By the end of the 1960s, the American and British counterculture and hippie movement had moved rock towards psychedelia, heavy metal, progressive rock and other styles that incorporated socially and politically incisive lyrics. The 1968 German student movement, French protests and Italian student movement had created a class of young, intellectual continental listeners, while nuclear weapons, pollution, and war inspired protests and activism. 1968 also saw the foundation of the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in Berlin by Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and Conrad Schnitzler, which further popularized the psychedelic rock sound in the German mainstream. Such developments influenced what came to be termed "krautrock", which appeared at the first major German rock festival in 1968 in Essen. Like their American, British and international counterparts, German rock musicians played a kind of psychedelic music. In contrast, however, there was no attempt to reproduce the effects of drugs.
Until around 1973, the word "Deutsch-Rock" ("German Rock") was used to refer to the new groups from West Germany. "Krautrock" was originally a humorous term coined in the early 1970s by British disc jockey John Peel or by the UK music newspaper Melody Maker, in which experimental German bands found an early and enthusiastic following, and ironically retained by its practitioners. The term derives from the ethnic slur "kraut", and its use by the music press was inspired by a track from Amon Düül's Psychedelic Underground titled "Mama Düül und Ihre Sauerkrautband Spielt Auf" ('Mama Düül and her Sauerkrautband Strike Up'). According to author Ulrich Adelt, "kraut" in German can refer to herbs, weeds, and drugs. Other names thrown around by the British music press were "Teutonic rock" and "Götterdämmer rock".
Its musicians tended to reject the name "krautrock". This was also the case for "kosmische Musik". Musicologist Julian Cope, in his book Krautrocksampler, says "Krautrock is a subjective British phenomenon," based on the way the music was received in the UK rather than on the actual West German music scene out of which it grew. For instance, while one of the main groups originally tagged as krautrock, Faust, recorded a seminal 12-minute track they titled "Krautrock", they would later distance themselves from the term, saying: "When the English people started talking about Krautrock, we thought they were just taking the piss... and when you hear the so-called 'Krautrock renaissance,' it makes me think everything we did was for nothing." West Germany's music press initially used "krautrock" as a pejorative, but the term lost its stigma after the music gained success in Britain.
Krautrock has proved to be highly influential on a succession of other musical styles and developments. Early contemporary enthusiasts outside Germany included Hawkwind and in particular Dave Brock who supposedly penned the sleeve notes for the British edition of Neu!'s first album  Faust's budget release The Faust Tapes has been cited as a formative teenage influence by several musicians growing up in the early 1970s such as Julian Cope (who has always cited krautrock as an influence, and wrote the book Krautrocksampler on the subject). The genre also had a strong influence on David Bowie's Station to Station (1976) and the experimentation it inspired led to his 'Berlin Trilogy'.
Krautrock was also highly influential on the late-'70s development of British new wave and post-punk, notably artists such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image Ltd., Cabaret Voltaire, The Fall, Gary Numan, Joy Division, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Simple Minds and This Heat, and on Galloping Coroners' shaman punk. Kraftwerk in particular had a lot of influence on American electronic dance music of the 1980s: electro, house, techno and especially goatrance. Ash Ra Tempel was strongly influential on the later development of 70s ambient as well as post-rock.
Alpha Centauri is the second album by German electronic music group Tangerine Dream, released in March 1971 by record label Ohr.Amon Düül II
Amon Düül II (or Amon Düül 2) is a German rock band. The group is generally considered to be one of the founders of the Krautrock scene and a seminal influence on its development.Atem (album)
Atem (English: Breath) is the fourth studio album by German electronic music group Tangerine Dream, released in March 1973 by record label Ohr.Can (band)
Can was a German experimental rock band formed in Cologne in 1968 by the core quartet of Holger Czukay (bass, tape editing), Irmin Schmidt (keyboards), Michael Karoli (guitar), and Jaki Liebezeit (drums). The group cycled through several vocalists, most prominently the American-born Malcolm Mooney (1968–70) and the Japanese-born Damo Suzuki (1970–73), as well as various temporary members.Coming from backgrounds in the avant-garde and jazz, Can blended elements of psychedelic rock, funk, and noise on influential albums such as Tago Mago (1971), Ege Bamyasi (1972) and Future Days (1973). Can also had occasional commercial success, with singles such as "Spoon" and "I Want More" reaching national singles charts. They have been widely hailed as pioneers of the German krautrock scene, and a considerable influence on subsequent rock, post-punk, ambient, and electronic music.Cluster (band)
Cluster were a German musical group formed by the duo of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius in 1971 and associated with West Germany's krautrock and kosmische music scenes. Borne from the earlier Berlin-based group Kluster, they collaborated with musicians such as Conny Plank, Brian Eno, and Michael Rother; with the latter, they formed the influential side-project Harmonia. After first disbanding in 1981, Cluster reunited several times: from 1989 to 1997, and from 2007 to 2010.AllMusic described the group as "the most important and consistently underrated space rock unit of the '70s." Music historian Julian Cope places three Cluster albums—Cluster 71 (1971), Zuckerzeit (1974), and Sowiesoso (1976)—in his Krautrock Top 50 and The Wire places Cluster's debut album Cluster 71 in their "One Hundred Records That Set The World On Fire".Conny Plank
Konrad "Conny" Plank (3 May 1940 – 5 December 1987) was a West German record producer and musician. He was born in Hütschenhausen. His creativity as a sound engineer and producer helped to shape many innovative recordings of postwar European popular music, covering a wide range of genres including progressive, avant-garde, electronic music and krautrock.
As a musician, Plank is credited on albums by Guru Guru, Kraan, Cluster, Liliental and Os Mundi. He collaborated with Dieter Moebius on five Moebius & Plank studio albums recorded between 1979 and 1986. The Moebius & Plank sound foreshadowed techno and electronica and influenced many later musicians.Electronic Meditation
Electronic Meditation is the debut album by German electronic music group Tangerine Dream, released in June 1970 by record label Ohr.Experimental rock
Experimental rock (or avant-rock) is a subgenre of rock music which pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance technique or which experiments with the basic elements of the genre. Artists aim to liberate and innovate, with some of the genre's distinguishing characteristics being improvisational performances, avant-garde influences, odd instrumentation, opaque lyrics (or instrumentals), unorthodox structures and rhythms, and an underlying rejection of commercial aspirations.From its inception, rock music was experimental, but it was not until the late 1960s that rock artists began creating extended and complex compositions through advancements in multitrack recording. In 1967, the genre was as commercially viable as pop music, but by 1970, most of its leading players had incapacitated themselves in some form. In Germany, the krautrock subgenre merged elements of improvisation and psychedelic rock with avant-garde and contemporary classical pieces. Later in the 1970s, significant musical crossbreeding took place in tandem with the developments of punk and new wave, DIY experimentation, and electronic music. Funk, jazz-rock, and fusion rhythms also became integrated into experimental rock music.
The first wave of 1980s experimental rock groups had few direct precedents for their sound. Later in the decade, avant-rock pursued a psychedelic aesthetic that differed from the self-consciousness and vigilance of earlier post-punk. During the 1990s, a loose movement known as post-rock became the dominant form of experimental rock. As of the 2010s, the term "experimental rock" has fallen to indiscriminate use, with many modern rock bands being categorized under prefixes such as "post-", "kraut-", "psych-", and "noise-".Faust (band)
Faust (English: "fist") are a German rock band. Formed in 1971 in Wümme by producer and former music journalist Uwe Nettelbeck, the group was originally composed of Werner "Zappi" Diermaier, Hans Joachim Irmler, Arnulf Meifert, Jean-Hervé Péron, Rudolf Sosna and Gunther Wüsthoff, working with engineer Kurt Graupner. Their work was oriented around dissonance, improvisation, and experimental electronic approaches, and would influence subsequent ambient and industrial music. They are considered a central act of West Germany's 1970s krautrock movement.Harmonia (band)
Harmonia was a West German musical "supergroup" formed in 1973 as a collaboration between members of two prominent krautrock bands: Michael Rother of Neu! with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius of Cluster. Based in the countryside village of Forst, the trio released two albums in their initial incarnation: Musik von Harmonia (1974) and Deluxe (1975). They reformed between 2007 and 2009.
AllMusic described the group as "one of the most legendary in the entire krautrock/kosmische scene," while early supporter (and eventual collaborator) Brian Eno described them in the mid-1970s as "the world's most important rock group." Harmonia's work would influence the development of ambient music by Eno and others. David Bowie was also an avid fan of the group; they would be an influence his 1977 album Low.Hole (Merzbow album)
Hole is an album by the Japanese noise musician Merzbow. It is a limited edition of 500 copies, 200 of which were only available for sale in Japan. 50 copies only available through Soleilmoon mailorder, and included an additional card and came wrapped in paper.The title "Krafft-Ebbings Dick" refers to the early German sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing (with one b). "Krautrock #1" was recorded live in Germany, the title refers to the genre of music.Join Inn
Join Inn is the fourth album by Krautrock band Ash Ra Tempel. It was recorded at Studio Dierks by Dieter Dierks during breaks in the sessions for the Walter Wegmüller album Tarot album. It was originally released on LP by Ohr in Berlin, catalogue number OMM 556032. Each side of the LP comprises one long track.Join Inn marks the end of the collaboration with Klaus Schulze. However, together with Ash Ra Tempel, their eponymous first album, it is considered a highlight of the Krautrock movement.La Düsseldorf
La Düsseldorf was a German band, consisting of onetime Kraftwerk drummer and Neu! multi-instrumentalist Klaus Dinger and occasional Neu! collaborators Thomas Dinger and Hans Lampe. La Düsseldorf was formed after Neu! disbanded following the release of their Neu! '75 record. They released a string of successful albums (with sales totaling over a million) during the late 1970s and early 1980s and were considered highly influential by the likes of Brian Eno and David Bowie, with Bowie going so far as calling La Düsseldorf "the soundtrack of the eighties".Motorik
Motorik is the 4/4 beat often used by, and heavily associated with, krautrock bands. Coined by music journalists; the term is German for "motor skill". The motorik beat was pioneered by Jaki Liebezeit, drummer with German experimental rock band Can. Klaus Dinger of Neu!, another early pioneer of motorik, later called it the "Apache beat".The motorik beat is in 4/4 time and of moderate pace. The pattern is repeated each bar throughout the song. A splash or crash cymbal is often hit at the beginning bar of a verse or chorus. The basic pattern is as follows: PlayNeu!
Neu! (styled as NEU! in block capitals, German: New!, pronounced [nɔʏ]) was a German band formed in Düsseldorf in 1971 by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother following their departure from Kraftwerk. The group's albums were produced by Conny Plank, who has been regarded as the group's "hidden member". They released three albums in their initial incarnation—Neu! (1972), Neu! 2 (1973), and Neu! 75 (1975)—before disbanding in 1975. They briefly reunited in the mid-1980s.Though Neu! had minimal commercial success during its existence, the band is retrospectively considered one of the founders of West Germany's 1970s krautrock movement. They are known for pioneering the "motorik" beat, a minimalist 4/4 rhythm associated with krautrock artists. Their work has exerted a significant influence on a variety of subsequent rock, post-punk, and electronic music artists.Popol Vuh (band)
Popol Vuh were a German band founded by keyboardist Florian Fricke in 1969 together with Holger Trülzsch (percussion), Frank Fiedler (recording engineer) and Bettina Fricke (tablas and production). Other important members during the next two decades included Djong Yun, Renate Knaup, Conny Veit, Daniel Fichelscher, Klaus Wiese and Robert Eliscu. The band took its name from the Mayan manuscript containing the mythology of the Quiché people of highland Guatemala; the name has been translated roughly as "meeting place" or "book of the community".Popol Vuh began as an electronic music project, but under Fricke's leadership soon abandoned synthesizers for organic instrumentation and various world music influences. They developed a productive working partnership with director Werner Herzog, contributing scores to films such as Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), and Fitzcarraldo (1982). The group are associated with West Germany's 1970s krautrock movement and are considered progenitors of ambient music. Today, Popol Vuh's best-reviewed works are In den Gärten Pharaos (1971) and Hosianna Mantra (1972).Rock music in Germany
German rock music (Deutschrock) came into its own only by the late 1960s, but spawned many bands spanning genres such as krautrock, Neue Deutsche Welle, heavy metal, punk, and industrial.
Rock and roll itself arose in the United States in the 1940s, and spread across the world beginning in about 1956. There were few German performers at that time, even though American rock was popular in (West) Germany. Rockabilly stars like Bill Haley & His Comets were of particular popularity. The reasons for this lack of German musical innovation were the suppression of "degenerate" forms of music by the Nazis and/or the traumatic effects of the war—while Germany was a center of several forms of modern music before the Nazi era, it had difficulty developing its own music culture after its occupation.Sky Records
Sky Records was a Hamburg, Germany-based independent record label specializing in krautrock/Kosmische Musik and electronic music. Some of their releases could be classified as progressive rock or art rock, experimental music, industrial, ambient, or new age. No new releases appeared after 1998.Zeit
Zeit (English: Time) is the third studio album by German electronic music group Tangerine Dream. A double LP, it was released in August 1972, being the first release featuring Peter Baumann, who joined then-current members Christopher Franke and Edgar Froese. Zeit is subtitled Largo in Four Movements.
decade of origin