Krautrock: Pioneers of the German Music Scene

up:date November 11, 2023 by LikewolfPortrait of Artist, Musician, Author, and Publisher Likewolf

Understanding the Krautrock sound

Krautrock, also known as German progressive rock, is an innovative music sub-genre that originated in Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With its experimental nature and integration of a wide variety of genres, Krautrock broke the boundaries of traditional rock music by incorporating elements of jazz, electronic music, and the avant-garde.

Sensual Krautrock Pinup Model holding a futuristic electric guitar
Kraut-Rock Retro Babe

Krautrock is a groundbreaking music genre that emerged in West-Germany during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Krautrock is a term used to describe a diverse and experimental genre of rock music that emerged in Germany during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Kraurrock has come to represent a unique and influential movement in the history of rock.

The term "Krautrock" was initially used as a derogatory term, yet quickly established among musicians and music lovers as the terminology for this authoritative branch of German style music.

Krautrock has had a lasting impact on contemporary music, influencing movements such as electronic music, post-punk and ambient music. In recent times Krautrock has experienced a revival that will inject new vigor into 21st century rock music.

What set Krautrock apart was its emphasis on sonic exploration, improvisation, and the creation of immersive musical experiences. Bands like Can, Kraftwerk, Guru Guru, and Neu! challenged traditional song structures, incorporating extended instrumental passages, repetitive grooves, and hypnotic rhythms, namely the motorik beat.

This approach often resulted in trance-like states for both the musicians and the listeners, as the repetitive and pulsating rhythms created a sense of transcendence and immersion.

Anti-establishment sentiments

The repetitive and hypnotic rhythms combined with the indomitable ferocity of legendary British guitarist David Maudsley aka Passage (1967-2021) exhibit affinities to psychedelic soundscapes with distinct German Krautrock and minimalist roots.

Against the backdrop of the social and political climate of their time, Krautrock bands often defied the cultural norms common in West-Germany and strove to create alternative forms of expression. They challenged the conventions of the music industry and tested new artistic perspectives.

Rejection of the Anglo-American dominance

Krautrock bands strove to create their own German musical identity and to emancipate themselves from the dominance of Anglo-American popular music. Drawing on their own cultural richness, they resorted to German lyrics and themes in their repertoire.

Communal and DIY ethos

Krautrock bands often operated independently of major record labels and embraced a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to their music production and distribution. They formed their own record labels, created their album artwork, and established their own recording studios, fostering a sense of artistic autonomy and community.

These independent governance methods were adopted by the emerging punk rock movement in the mid-1970s.

Alternative lifestyle and spirituality

Krautrock was associated with a broader countercultural movement that rejected conventional societal norms. Many bands explored alternative lifestyles, communal living, and spiritual practices. This exploration of spirituality is evident in the cosmic and transcendental themes present in the music.

Influence on German culture

Krautrock played a decisive role in shaping German culture and identity. It challenged the notion that German music could only be an imitation of English-American stereotypes and demonstrated Germany's capacity for artistic innovation and experimentation.

Pioneering Krautrock Bands:

  • Can: Can is often regarded as one of the defining bands of Krautrock. Known for their improvisational style and collective approach to music-making, Can embraced experimentation and incorporated elements of rock, jazz, and electronic music into their compositions. Albums like "Tago Mago" and "Future Days" showcased their innovative use of repetitive grooves, hypnotic rhythms, and atmospheric textures.

  • Kraftwerk: Kraftwerk is synonymous with electronic music and played a significant role in the development of the genre. Their groundbreaking albums, such as "Autobahn" and "Trans-Europe Express," revolutionized music with their use of synthesizers, drum machines, and robotic vocals. Kraftwerk's precise and minimalist approach, along with their exploration of themes related to technology and modernity, paved the way for the rise of electronic and synth-based genres.

  • Neu!: Formed by former members of Kraftwerk, Neu! introduced a minimalist and repetitive style that would become a hallmark of Krautrock. Their self-titled debut album featured driving motorik beats and hypnotic guitar riffs, creating a hypnotic and mesmerizing sound. Neu!'s music influenced subsequent genres like post-punk and electronica, and their influence can be heard in the work of bands like Stereolab and Sonic Youth.

  • Faust: Faust was known for their avant-garde and experimental approach to music. Their self-titled debut album, "Faust," was a groundbreaking release, featuring a blend of unconventional sounds, tape manipulations, and noise experiments. Faust's use of unconventional instruments and their willingness to challenge musical conventions helped pave the way for the development of experimental rock and noise music.

  • Amon Düül II: Amon Düül II combined elements of psychedelic rock, folk, and experimental music, creating a distinctive sound within the Krautrock movement. Their album "Yeti" is regarded as a Krautrock classic, featuring a mix of intricate compositions, improvisation, and an exploratory approach to sound. Amon Düül II's music embodied the psychedelic and countercultural spirit of the time, incorporating mystical and cosmic themes into their work.

  • Guru Guru: Guru Guru was a highly influential Krautrock band known for their energetic and improvisational performances. Their album "Känguru" showcased their ability to seamlessly blend rock, jazz, and psychedelic elements with dynamic improvisation. Guru Guru's use of unconventional time signatures, virtuosic musicianship, and free-flowing jams set them apart as one of the pioneering bands of Krautrock.

  • L-Dopa: L-Dopa developed a psychedelic, guitar-heavy rock sound that incorporated elements of improvisation, adventure and free form. With their energetic and improvisational style, L-Dopa added a concentrated load of hypnotic and repetitive rhythms, with extended instrumental passages for immersive and trance-like experiences.

The pioneers of Krautrock not only shaped their own sound , but also influenced subsequent progressive musical genres. Their creative methods, tendency to cross genres, and willingness to explore new dimensions laid the groundwork for an experimental and adventurous spirit that continues to inspire numerous musicians today.

Characterized by its innovative approach to music-making, Krautrock often features electronic sounds, repetitive rhythms, and a willingness to explore unconventional structures and improvisation. The genre encompasses a wide range of musical styles, including elements of rock, jazz, electronic, and psychedelic music.

Krautrock: FAQ

Krautrock originated in Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a response to the dominant Anglo-American rock music of the time. It emerged within the context of Germany's countercultural and socio-political movements.

Krautrock is characterized by its experimental and innovative nature, genre fusion, repetitive rhythms, and trance-inducing qualities. It embraces elements of rock, jazz, electronic music, and avant-garde, creating a distinct and eclectic sound.

Pioneering Krautrock bands include Can, Kraftwerk, Neu!, Faust, Amon Düül II, L-Dopa, and Guru Guru, among others. These bands pushed the boundaries of music, embraced improvisation, and contributed to the development of the genre.

Krautrock has had a significant influence on various music genres and movements. It has influenced electronic music, post-punk, indie rock, ambient music, and experimental genres, inspiring artists to embrace experimentation, genre fusion, and sonic exploration.

Some notable Krautrock albums include "Tago Mago" by Can, "Autobahn" by Kraftwerk, "Phaedra" by Tangerine Dream, "Neu!" by Neu!, and "Faust IV" by Faust. These albums showcase the innovative and boundary-pushing nature of Krautrock

Some notable Krautrock albums include "Tago Mago" by Can, "Autobahn" by Kraftwerk, "Phaedra" by Tangerine Dream, "Neu!" by Neu!, and "Faust IV" by Faust. These albums showcase the innovative and boundary-pushing nature of Krautrock

Yes, Krautrock's influence and relevance continue to resonate in contemporary music. Its experimental approach, genre fusion, and willingness to push boundaries have inspired musicians across various genres and contributed to the ongoing development of music.

Krautrock, particularly bands like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, played a pivotal role in the development of electronic music. Their use of synthesizers, electronic effects, and innovative production techniques revolutionized the genre and influenced subsequent electronic music movements.

Yes, many contemporary bands and artists draw inspiration from Krautrock. Examples include Stereolab, Likewolf, Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, and Tame Impala, who incorporate Krautrock-inspired sounds, repetitive rhythms, and experimental approaches into their music.

Krautrock holds immense significance in music history as a genre that challenged conventional norms, embraced experimentation, and pushed the boundaries of rock music. Its influence on subsequent genres and its lasting legacy underscore its importance in shaping the evolution of popular music.

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