Krautrock

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Krautrock (also called kosmische Musik, German for "cosmic music" [9] [10] [11] ) is a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s [10] among artists who blended elements of psychedelic rock, electronic music, and avant-garde composition among other sources. [12] These artists moved away from the blues influences and song structure found in traditional Anglo-American rock music, [13] instead utilizing hypnotic rhythms, tape-music techniques, and early synthesizers. [14] [12] Prominent groups associated with krautrock music included Can, Neu!, Amon Düül II, Faust, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Agitation Free, Guru Guru, early Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Harmonia. [5]

Contents

The term was popularized by British music journalists, who adopted the term "Krautrock" as a humorous umbrella-label for the diverse German scene, [15] though many so-labeled artists disliked the term. [16] The movement was partly born out of the radical student movements of 1968, [17] as German youth rebelled against their country's legacy in World War II and sought a popular music distinct from traditional German music and American pop. [10] The period contributed to the development of ambient music and techno, [8] and influenced subsequent genres such as post-punk, new-age music, and post-rock. [5] [18]

History

Origins and influences

A German student protest from 1968 TU Berlin 1968a.jpg
A German student protest from 1968

Krautrock is a broad label encompassing diverse sounds and artists that emerged in West Germany during the 1960s and early 1970s. [19] The music was partially inspired by broad cultural developments such as the revolutionary 1968 German student movement, [10] [20] with many young people having both political and aesthetic concerns. [21] Youth rebelled against both dominant American influence and conservative German entertainment such as schlager music, [21] seeking to liberate themselves from Germany's Nazi legacy in World War II and create a new popular culture. [15] Dieter Moebius, of the bands Cluster and Harmonia, noted that "we were a lot of the times on the streets instead of studying. As young people we were not very proud to be German [...] we were all tired of listening to bad German music and imitations of American music. Something had to happen." [21] The movement saw artists merge elements of varied genres such as psychedelic rock, avant-garde forms of electronic music, funk rhythm, jazz improvisation and "ethnic" music styles, [5] typically reflecting a "genuine sense of awe and wonder." [19]

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.

—Jean-Hervé Peron of Faust. [13]

Core influences on these German artists included avant-garde composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and Terry Riley, and bands such as the Mothers of Invention, the Velvet Underground, the Beatles, [22] and Pink Floyd. [10] A significant influence was the work of American minimalists such as Riley, Tony Conrad, and La Monte Young, as well as the late '60s albums of jazz musician Miles Davis. [23] Some artists drew on ideas from 20th century classical music and musique concrète, [21] 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). [18] The Quietus noted the influence of Jimi Hendrix and James Brown on krautrock musicians. [24] Moving away from the patterns of song structure and melody of much rock music in America and Britain, some in the movement were drawn to a more mechanical and electronic sound. [18]

Etymology

Until around 1973, the word "Deutsch-Rock" ("German Rock") was used to refer to the new groups from West Germany. [25] Various sources claim that "Krautrock" was originally a humorous term coined in the early 1970s either by British disc jockey John Peel [26] or by the UK music newspaper Melody Maker , in which experimental German bands found an early and enthusiastic following. [27] The first use of the term however, was found in a full page advertisement from Popo Music Management and Bacillus Records promoting German Rock in the UK, in April 1971. [28] The music emerging in Germany was first covered extensively in three concurrent issues of the UK music paper New Musical Express in the month of December, 1972, by journalist Ian MacDonald, who may have been the first to coin the term. [29] The term derives from the ethnic slur "kraut". "Kraut" in German can refer to herbs, weeds, and drugs. [30] Other names thrown around by the British music press were "Teutonic rock" and "Götterdämmer rock". [30] West Germany's music press initially used "krautrock" as a pejorative, but the term lost its stigma after the music gained success in Britain. [30]

Its musicians tended to reject the name "krautrock". [31] [30] This was also the case for "kosmische Musik". [30] 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. [32] 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." [13]

Musical elements

Krautrock has been described as a broad genre encompassing varied approaches, [10] [19] though The Quietus noted that most music in the genre, "diverse as it is, shares an interest in electronics, texture and repetition." [24] Shindig! summarized the style as "avant-garde musical collages of electronic sounds, rock music, and psychedelia" which typically featured "improvisation and hypnotic, minimalistic rhythms". [12] Los Angeles Magazine summarized the genre as "where American psychedelica meets icy Germanic detachment". [33] 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". [5] AllMusic described it as expanding on the musical explorations associated with art rock and progressive rock, but diverging from American and British groups' emphasis on jazz and classical elements in favor of "a droning, pulsating sound that owed more to the avant garde than to rock & roll". [14] According to The Line of Best Fit , some typical characteristics include "steady 4/4 beats, hypnotic, droning rhythms, and shimmering keyboards". [34] Artists used early synthesizers and experimented with tape music techniques. [14] Pitchfork stated that the genre "in its platonic ideal should be basically instrumental; it should seamlessly meld electronics and rock instruments; it should favor long, drawn-over structures over short dynamic shifts, and steady-state rhythms over syncopation". [35] Los Angeles Magazine describes 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". [33] The Stranger called krautrock an "innovative reconstruction of rock and electronic music". [36]

The "Motorik" beat is the 4/4 beat often used by drummers associated with krautrock, [37] characterised by a kick drum-heavy, pulsating groove, that created a forward-flowing feel. [37] The motorik beat was used by Can in the song "Mother Sky", and by Neu! on their debut album, [38] later being adopted by other krautrock bands. It has been widely used in many different styles of music beyond krautrock. [39] 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". [15] 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. [19]

Kosmische musik

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; [16] today, it is often used synonymously with krautrock. [40] More specifically, it may describe 1970s German electronic music which uses synthesizers and incorporates themes related to space or otherworldliness; [40] [41] it is also used as a German analogue to the English term "space rock". [42] The style was often instrumental and characterized by "spacy", ambient soundscapes. [41] Artists used synthesizers such as the EMS VCS 3 and Moog Modular, as well as sound processing effects and tape-based approaches. [40] They largely rejected rock music conventions, and instead drew on "serious" electronic compositions. [41]

The term "kosmische Musik" was coined either by Edgar Froese in the liner notes of Tangerine Dream's 1971 album Alpha Centauri [41] or by record producer Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser as a marketing name for bands such as Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze. [30] The following year, Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser's Ohr Records released the compilation Kosmische Musik (1972) featuring tracks by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Ash Ra Tempel, and Popol Vuh. [40] Kaiser eventually began referring to the style as "cosmic rock" to signify that the music belonged in a rock idiom. [42] German producer Conny Plank was a central figure in the kosmische sound, emphasizing texture, effects processing, and tape-based editing techniques. [16] Plank oversaw kosmische recordings such as Kraftwerk's Autobahn , Neu!'s Neu! 75 , and Cluster's Zuckerzeit . [16]

Several of these artists would later distance themselves from the term. [40] Other proposed names for the style at the time were "Berlin School" and "Dusseldorf School," though none remained definitive. [41] The style would later lead to the development of new-age music, with which it shared several characteristics. [41] It would also exert lasting influence on subsequent electronic music and avant-garde rock. [42]

Legacy and influence

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 [43] 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'. [44] [45]

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. Kraftwerk in particular had a lot of influence on American electronic dance music of the 1980s: electro, house, techno and especially Goa trance. Ash Ra Tempel was strongly influential on the later development of 70s ambient as well as post-rock. [46]

See also

Related Research Articles

Post-rock is a form of experimental rock characterized by a focus on exploring textures and timbre over traditional rock song structures, chords, or riffs. Post-rock artists are often instrumental, typically combining rock instrumentation with electronics. The genre emerged within the indie and underground music scene of the 1980s and early 1990s. However, due to its abandonment of rock conventions, it often bears little resemblance musically to contemporary indie rock, borrowing instead from diverse sources including ambient, electronica, jazz, krautrock, dub, and minimalist classical.

Faust (band) German krautrock band

Faust 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.

Neu! German band

Neu! 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.

<i>Neu!</i> (album) 1972 studio album by Neu!

Neu! is the debut album by German krautrock band Neu!. It was released in 1972 by Brain Records. It was the first album recorded by the duo of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger after leaving Kraftwerk in 1971. They continued to work with producer Konrad "Conny" Plank, who had also worked on the Kraftwerk recording sessions.

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 heard in one section of Kraftwerk's "Autobahn", a song designed to celebrate exactly this experience. It is heard throughout Neu!'s "Hallogallo", from their self-titled album Neu!.

Harmonia (band)

Harmonia was a West German musical "supergroup" formed in 1973 as a collaboration between members of two prominent krautrock bands: Cluster's Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius joined by Neu! guitarist Michael Rother. Living and recording in the rural village of Forst, the trio released two albums—Musik von Harmonia (1974) and Deluxe (1975)—to limited sales before dissolving in 1976.

Ash Ra Tempel was a German krautrock group active from 1970 to 1976, Manuel Göttsching's first prominent musical output. Ash Ra Tempel featured revolving members. Göttsching retired the use of the Ash Ra Tempel name after he became the sole remaining member. His first solo album Inventions for Electric Guitar was the last album to bear the Ash Ra Tempel name. Göttsching later used the name Ashra for his solo output as an homage to his former group. Ashra eventually evolved into a full band and continued along with Göttsching until 1998.

Manuel Göttsching is a German musician and composer.

<i>Zuckerzeit</i> 1974 studio album by Cluster

Zuckerzeit is the third studio album by German band Cluster, released in 1974 on Brain Records. It was co-produced by Michael Rother, their bandmate in side-project Harmonia. The music on Zuckerzeit marks a shift from Cluster's abrasive early work toward a more rhythmic, pop-oriented sound. Pitchfork ranked the album at number 63 on its list of the top 100 albums of the 1970s, while writer and musician Julian Cope included Zuckerzeit in his "Krautrock Top 50" list.

German electronic music is a broad musical genre encompassing specific styles such as Electroclash, trance, krautrock and schranz. It is widely considered to have emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, becoming increasingly popular in subsequent decades. Originally minimalistic style of electronic music developed into psychedelic and prog rock aspects, techno and electronic dance music. Notable artists include Kraftwerk, Can, Tangerine Dream and Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft. German electronic music contributed to a global transition of electronic music from underground art to an international phenomenon, with festivals such as Love Parade, Winterworld and MayDay gaining prominence alongside raves and clubs.

<i>Krautrocksampler</i> 1995 book by Julian Cope

Krautrocksampler: One Head's Guide to the Great Kosmische Musik - 1968 Onwards, written by the musician and writer Julian Cope, is a book describing the underground music scene in Germany from 1968 through the 1970s. The book was first published in the United Kingdom in 1995 by Head Heritage, and was later translated into German, Italian and French. The book gives a subjective and very animated account of the phenomenon of krautrock from the perspective of the author, who states: "I wrote this short history because of the way I feel about the music, that its supreme Magic & Power has lain Unrecognised for too long."

<i>Deluxe</i> (Harmonia album) 1975 studio album by Harmonia

Deluxe is the second album from the West German krautrock group Harmonia, featuring Neu! guitarist Michael Rother with the duo Cluster. It was recorded in June 1975 in Harmonia's studio in Forst, Germany. It was first released on the Brain Records label in 1975.

The Cosmic Jokers were a German krautrock supergroup, though they were never a proper ensemble, per se; their music was created from sessions put together by label head Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser and Gille Lettman in early 1973, without the performers' knowledge. They were a primary example of space rock.

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.

Cosmic Couriers

Cosmic Couriers was a German experimental/space-rock label set up by Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser in 1973 following his association with Ohr and Pilz. A number of influential records in the Krautrock genre were released on Cosmic Couriers, including Klaus Schulze's 'Cyborg' and Ash Ra Tempel/Timothy Leary's 'Seven Up'.

Experimental rock, also called avant-rock, is a subgenre of rock music that 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, unorthodox structures and rhythms, and an underlying rejection of commercial aspirations.

Eat Lights Become Lights

Eat Lights Become Lights is a British alternative rock band. They are known for their live performances as the house band at Klub Motorik. The band take inspiration from the likes of Kraftwerk, who were major influences on what would become known as post-punk music. Krautrock has progressively developed internationally, and each region interprets the musical structure differently. Eat Lights Become Lights have repackaged krautrock for a new audience without compromising on the long standing musical codes and conventions.

Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser is a German writer and record producer. He is best known as the founder of the Ohr, Pilz, and Cosmic Couriers record labels. These labels released many of the earliest Krautrock albums in the early 1970s, and Kaiser is often cited as a pivotal figure in the development of the genre.

Avant-pop is popular music that is experimental, new, and distinct from previous styles while retaining an immediate accessibility for the listener. The term implies a combination of avant-garde sensibilities with existing elements from popular music in the service of novel or idiosyncratic artistic visions.

Metropolis was a German band in the mid-1970s from West Berlin, initiated by former members of other Berlin bands Tom Hildebrand (Mythos) and Manfred Opitz and Michael Westphal (Zarathustra). Michael Duwe joined them after returning from the recording of the album Seven Up with Ash Ra Tempel and Timothy Leary. Guitarist Helmut Binzer, who came from the south of Germany, and singer Ute Kannenberg, at that time better known as Tanja Berg in German hit parades, completed the band soon after.

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