Krautrock: Pioneers of the German Music Scene

May 16, 2024 by LikewolfPortrait of Artist, Musician, Author, and Publisher Likewolf

Legacy of Krautrock: Origins, Characteristics, and Lasting Influence

Krautrock, aka cosmic music, emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a ground-breaking music movement in West Germany. With its experimental character, its electronic soundscapes and its unconventional approach to rock music, Krautrock challenged traditional musical norms and opened the gates for countless subsequent genres.

A man playing an electronic keyboard in front of a psychedelic background.
From Can to Likewolf: The Evolution of Krautrock

Krautrock has had a significant impact on the broader musical landscape, influencing subsequent generations of musicians across various genres.

Krautrock also known as German progressive rock, is an innovative music sub-genre that originated in Germany.

One of the core aspects of Krautrock is the use of electronica with its differentiated studio techniques.

The term "Krautrock" was initially used as a derogatory term in the British music press, but quickly established itself among musicians and music lovers as the terminology for this significant branch of German music.

Krautrock's Sonic Landscape

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.

✅ Subscribe and become a channel member:

Bands like Kraftwerk pioneered the use of synthesizers and drum machines, laying the foundations for the subsequent revolution in electronic dance music.

12 Facts to Know About Kraut Rock

  • Origin: Krautrock is a genre of experimental electro rock music that originated in Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

  • Diverse Influences: Krautrock bands drew inspiration from diverse musical influences, including psychedelic rock, electronic music, jazz, and avant-garde classical music.

  • Innovation: Krautrock bands were known for their innovative approach to music-making, often incorporating electronic instrumentation, improvisation, and unconventional song structures.

  • Motorik Beat: A hallmark of Krautrock is the "motorik" beat, characterized by its steady, repetitive rhythm, which creates a hypnotic and driving groove.

  • Key Bands: Some of the most influential Krautrock bands include Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, Faust, Tangerine Dream, and Amon Düül II.

  • Electronic Experimentation: Krautrock played a pivotal role in the development of electronic music, with bands like Kraftwerk pioneering the use of synthesizers and drum machines.

  • Studio Innovation: Krautrock bands utilized the studio as an instrument, experimenting with studio effects, tape manipulation, and other recording techniques to create new and unusual sounds.

  • Cultural and Political Context: Krautrock emerged against the backdrop of post-war Germany, reflecting the social and political upheaval of the time and serving as a form of cultural expression and resistance.

  • Global Influence: Despite its German origins, Krautrock had a significant impact on music scenes around the world, influencing genres as diverse as punk, post-punk, electronic, and ambient music.

  • Experimental Spirit: Krautrock embraced an experimental ethos, with bands constantly pushing the boundaries of what was considered possible or acceptable in rock music.

  • Legacy: Krautrock's legacy continues to endure, with its influence evident in the work of contemporary artists and its albums revered as classics by music enthusiasts and collectors.

  • Cultural Revival: In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Krautrock, with reissues, retrospectives, and new bands drawing inspiration from the genre's pioneering spirit.

Krautrock bands forged a new sonic frontier, defying conventions and embracing innovation in both musical composition and performance.

Krautrock: Timeline

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a musical revolution was underway in Germany that would forever alter the landscape of rock music.

This movement, known as Krautrock, emerged as a bold rejection of conventional rock norms, embracing experimentation, improvisation, and electronic innovation.

Year Milestone
1968 Formation of bands like Can and Amon Düül II
1969 Birth of the term "Krautrock" by British media
1970 Release of seminal albums like "Yeti" by Amon Düül II and "Electronic Meditation" by Tangerine Dream
1971 Release of influential albums like "Tago Mago" by Can and "Faust" by Faust
1972 Neu! releases their self-titled debut album, introducing the motorik beat
1973 Kraftwerk releases "Ralf und Florian," a precursor to their electronic sound
1974 Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" and Tangerine Dream's "Phaedra" push electronic music forward
1975 Klaus Schulze releases "Timewind," pioneering ambient and space music
1976 Kraftwerk releases "Trans-Europe Express," influencing electronic and hip-hop music
1977 Cluster collaborates with Brian Eno on "Cluster & Eno," expanding Krautrock's reach
1978 The rise of post-punk sees bands like Joy Division and Talking Heads influenced by Krautrock
1980s Krautrock influences electronic music genres like techno and ambient
1990s Krautrock experiences a revival with bands like Stereolab and Radiohead citing it as an influence
2000s Reissues and rediscovery of Krautrock albums by new generations of listeners
Present Krautrock continues to inspire musicians across genres and remains a seminal part of music history

This timeline highlights key events and releases that shaped the trajectory of Krautrock from its inception to its enduring influence on contemporary music.

Krautrock: Innovation and Sonic Adventure

A woman waering headphones performing Krautrock music in a vibrant painting.
Krautrock Revolution

Krautrock embodies a spirit of exploration and experimentation, drawing inspiration from diverse musical traditions while rejecting the commercial pressures of mainstream rock.

Krautrock has had a lasting impact on contemporary music, influencing movements such as electronic music, post-punk and ambient 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 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.

Krautrock owes its characteristic cosmic space jams and hypnotic rhythms to the experimental spirit and sonic exploration introduced by psychedelic rock.

Anti-establishment sentiments

Against the backdrop of the social and political climate of their time, Krautrock bands defied the cultural norms common in West-Germany and strove to create an alternative counter culture.

Whether through abstract lyrics or instrumental compositions, Krautrock artists grappled with questions of identity, technology, and the human condition, offering listeners a window into the cultural zeitgeist of the era.

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.

Krautrock 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.

Krautrock remains a fascinating and influential chapter in the history of modern music, challenging conventions, and expanding artistic boundaries.

Explore the Innovative Genre of Krautrock

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.

Likewolf's Krautrock Collection

Stemming from the dissatisfaction with the dominant Anglo-American rock scene, Krautrock bands sought to forge a new sonic identity that was distinctly German.

Influenced by avant-garde, electronic, and psychedelic music, Krautrock challenged conventional song structures and embraced improvisation as a means of artistic expression.

  • Can - "Tago Mago" (1971): Can's album, "Tago Mago," is a masterpiece of experimental rock, blending hypnotic rhythms, avant-garde improvisation, and innovative studio techniques. Its sprawling double LP format showcases the band's fearless exploration of sound and structure.

  • Neu! - "Neu!" (1972): Neu!'s self-titled debut album is a landmark of Krautrock, introducing the mesmerizing motorik beat that would come to define the genre. With its repetitive rhythms, minimalist melodies, and futuristic atmosphere, "Neu!" laid the groundwork for countless electronic and experimental artists.

  • Kraftwerk - "Autobahn" (1974): Autobahn" is Kraftwerk's breakthrough album, fusing electronic instrumentation with driving motorik rhythms and evocative soundscapes. Its title track, a sprawling epic inspired by the German highway system, established the band as pioneers of electronic music.

  • Faust - "Faust IV" (1973): "Faust IV" is the fourth studio album by the experimental rock band Faust, known for their avant-garde approach to music-making. The album features a diverse range of sonic experiments, from ambient soundscapes to cacophonous noise, showcasing Faust's fearless creativity

  • Amon Düül II - "Yeti" (1970): "Yeti" is a double album by the German progressive rock band Amon Düül II, blending psychedelic rock with elements of folk, jazz, and electronic experimentation. Its sprawling, improvisational tracks reflect the band's communal approach to music-making.

  • Ash Ra Tempel - "Ash Ra Tempel" (1971): The self-titled debut album by Ash Ra Tempel is a landmark of psychedelic and experimental rock. With its hypnotic guitar drones, swirling electronics, and free-form improvisation, "Ash Ra Tempel" remains a classic of the Krautrock genre.

  • Cluster - "Cluster II" (1972): "Cluster II" is the second album by the electronic music duo Cluster, known for their pioneering use of synthesizers and electronic effects. The album's minimalist compositions and ethereal textures make it a standout in the Krautrock canon.

  • Popol Vuh - "Hosianna Mantra" (1972): "Hosianna Mantra" is a transcendent album by the German electronic band Popol Vuh, blending ambient textures, spiritual themes, and Eastern influences. Its meditative soundscapes and ethereal melodies have made it a cult favorite among Krautrock enthusiasts.

  • Harmonia - "Musik von Harmonia" (1974): "Musik von Harmonia" is the debut album by the electronic supergroup Harmonia, featuring members of Cluster and Neu!. The album's hypnotic rhythms, lush synthesizers, and dreamy atmospheres exemplify the innovative spirit of Krautrock.

  • Guru Guru - "UFO" (1970): "UFO" is the debut album by the German rock band Guru Guru, known for their frenetic blend of psychedelic rock, jazz, and avant-garde experimentation. The album's energetic performances and inventive compositions established Guru Guru as one of the pioneers of Krautrock.

  • Tangerine Dream - "Phaedra" (1974): "Phaedra" is a seminal album by the electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream, known for their innovative use of synthesizers and sequencers. The album's ambient soundscapes, pulsating rhythms, and otherworldly atmospheres have made it a cornerstone of the Krautrock genre.

  • Klaus Schulze - "Timewind" (1975): "Timewind" is a groundbreaking album by electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze, known for his immersive soundscapes and epic compositions. The album's cosmic textures, ethereal melodies, and hypnotic rhythms showcase Schulze's mastery of the synthesizer and his influence on Krautrock and beyond.

The impact of Krautrock extends far beyond its German roots, influencing a diverse range of musical genres and movements both within Germany and internationally.

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 German music 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.

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 emerged in the context of the German counterculture movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, reflecting the political and social upheaval of the time. It served as a form of cultural resistance, offering an alternative to the dominant Anglo-American rock music of the era.

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.

Are you curious about music, art, technology, fashion, lifestyle, and beer?

If so, then you need to subscribe to the free Likewolf newsletter.

100% privacy. When you sign up, we'll keep you posted.

Portrait of the hottest German Multimedia Artist
Likewolf's Typewriter

Likewolf writes about music, art, technology, fashion, lifestyle, and beer.

Spirit of experimentation and creativity