Last updated

Krautrock (also called kosmischeMusik, 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, avant-garde composition, and electronic music among other eclectic sources. [12] These artists generally moved away from the rhythm & blues influences and song structure found in traditional Anglo-American rock music, [13] exploring hypnotic rhythms, musique concrète techniques, extended improvisation, and early synthesizers. [14] [12] Prominent groups associated with the krautrock label included Neu!, Can, Faust, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh, Amon Düül II and Harmonia. [5]


The term "krautrock" was popularized by British music journalists 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 protests 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]


Krautrock has been described as a broad genre encompassing varied approaches, [10] [19] but commonly drawing on psychedelia, avant-garde collage, electronic sounds, and rock music, while typically featuring "improvisation and hypnotic, minimalistic rhythms." [12] Los Angeles Magazine summarized the genre as "American psychedelica meets icy Germanic detachment." [20] 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 territory associated with art rock and progressive rock, but diverging from the 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]

Some common musical features exhibited by krautrock artists include:

Despite a common approach and generational attitude among artists, the New Statesman argues that "in truth, no two Krautrock acts sound remotely alike. Compare the dreamy synthesiser washes of Tangerine Dream with the alien noise collages of Faust or the psychedelic funk of Can." [27] However, a common feature is the "motorik" beat: the 4/4 beat often used by drummers associated with krautrock, [25] characterised by a kick drum-heavy, pulsating groove, that created a forward-flowing feel. [25] The motorik beat was used by Can in the song "Mother Sky", by Neu! on their debut album, and by Kraftwerk in the song "Autobahn" on their album of the same name. [28] later being adopted by other krautrock bands. It has been widely used in many different styles of music beyond krautrock. [29] 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]

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] [30] with many young people having both political and aesthetic concerns. [31] Youth rebelled against both dominant American influence and conservative German entertainment such as Schlager music, [31] 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." [31] 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, [32] 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. [33] Some artists drew on ideas from 20th century classical music and musique concrète, [31] 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. [23] 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]


Until around 1973, the word Deutsch-Rock ("German Rock") was used to refer to the new groups from West Germany. [34] Other names thrown around by the British and American music press were "Teutonic rock", "Überrock" [35] and "Götterdämmer rock". [36] West Germany's music press initially used Krautrock as a pejorative, but the term lost its stigma after the music gained success in Britain. [36] The term derives from the ethnic slur "kraut". "Kraut" in German can refer to herbs, weeds, and drugs. [36]

Various sources[ who? ] claim that "krautrock" was originally a humorous term coined in the early 1970s, either by British disc jockey John Peel [37] or by the UK music newspaper Melody Maker , in which experimental German bands found an early and enthusiastic following. [38] The first use[ failed verification ] 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. [39] [ third-party source needed ] The music emerging in Germany was first[ failed verification ] covered extensively in three concurrent issues of the UK music paper New Musical Express in the month of December 1972, by journalist Ian MacDonald. [40] [ third-party source needed ]

Its musicians tended to reject the name "krautrock". [41] [36] This was also the case for "kosmische Musik". [36] 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. [42] 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]

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. [43] More specifically, it may describe 1970s German electronic music which uses synthesizers and incorporates themes related to space or otherworldliness; [43] [44] it is also used as a German analogue to the English term "space rock". [45] The style was often instrumental and characterized by "spacy", ambient soundscapes. [44] Artists used synthesizers such as the EMS VCS 3 and Moog Modular, as well as sound processing effects and tape-based approaches. [43] They largely rejected rock music conventions, and instead drew on "serious" electronic compositions. [44]

The term "kosmische Musik" was coined either by Edgar Froese in the liner notes of Tangerine Dream's 1971 album Alpha Centauri [44] or by record producer Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser as a marketing name for bands such as Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze. [36] 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. [43] Kaiser eventually began referring to the style as "cosmic rock" to signify that the music belonged in a rock idiom. [45] 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. [43] Other proposed names for the style at the time were "Berlin School" and "Dusseldorf School," though none remained definitive. [44] The style would later lead to the development of new-age music, with which it shared several characteristics. [44] It would also exert lasting influence on subsequent electronic music and avant-garde rock. [45]

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 [46] 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'. [47] [48]

Ash Ra Tempel's first album, released in 1971, informed later krautrock music. [49]

See also

Related Research Articles

Space rock is a music genre characterized by loose and lengthy song structures centered on instrumental textures that typically produce a hypnotic, otherworldly sound. It may feature distorted and reverberation-laden guitars, minimal drumming, languid vocals, synthesizers and lyrical themes of outer space and science fiction.

Klaus Schulze German composer and musician (1947–2022)

Klaus Schulze was a German electronic music pioneer, composer and musician. He also used the alias Richard Wahnfried and was a member of the Krautrock bands Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, and the Cosmic Jokers before launching a solo career consisting of more than 60 albums released across five decades.

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 (b.1949), Hans Joachim Irmler (b.1950), Arnulf Meifert, Jean-Hervé Péron (b.1949), 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 krautrock 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!.

Cluster (band)

Cluster were a German musical duo consisting of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, formed in 1971 and associated with West Germany's krautrock and kosmische music scenes. Born from the earlier Berlin-based group Kluster, they relocated in 1971 into the countryside village of Forst, Lower Saxony, where they built a studio and 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.

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.

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.

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.

Peter Frohmader was a German electronic composer, musician and visual artist. He was also known by the pseudonym Nekropolis, a name under which he released several early works. Taking cues from Carl Orff, Magma, Glenn Branca, and Black Sabbath, Frohmader was recognized for his nightmarish and gothic compositions and as an important figure on the European progressive electronic scene.

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.



  1. "Ambient Pop". AllMusic . Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  2. Wilson 2006.
  3. Manning 2004.
  4. "Indie Electronic – Significant Albums, Artists and Songs – AllMusic". AllMusic.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Reynolds, Simon (July 1996). "Krautrock". Melody Maker.
  6. Hegarty & Halliwell 2011, p. 224.
  7. "Post-Rock". AllMusic . Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  8. 1 2 Battaglia, Andy. "Where to start with the vast, influential krautrock". The A.V. Club . Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  9. Cox, Christoph; Warner, Daniel, eds. (2004). Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. A&C Black. p. 412. ISBN   978-0-8264-1615-5.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Savage, Jon (30 March 2010). "Elektronische musik: a guide to krautrock". The Guardian . Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  11. Unterberger 1998, p. 174.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Harrison, Imogen (28 February 2016). "'Electricity' – The Influence of Krautrock on the UK's Next Generation". Shindig! . Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Stubbs, David (January 2007). "Invisible Jukebox: Faust". The Wire . No. 275. p. 18.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Anon (n.d.). "Kraut Rock". AllMusic . Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  15. 1 2 3 Segal, David (3 September 2007). "What is it? Krautrock". XLR8R . Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Seabrook, Thomas Jerome (2008). Bowie in Berlin: A New Career in a New Town. Jawbone Press. p. 85. ISBN   978-1-906002-08-4 . Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  17. Preston, John (April 2013). "Krautrock". Encyclopedia of Contemporary German Culture. Routledge Press. p. 353. ISBN   978-1-136-81603-1. [...] its origins in the 1960s student movement gave it a political hue expressed in the communal social organization of some of the bands, and sometimes in their music.
  18. 1 2 3 Reinholdt Nielsen, Per (2011). Rebel & Remix – Rockens historie. Denmark: Systime. ISBN   978-87-616-2662-2.
  19. 1 2 3 Bolton, Matt (9 May 2008). "Matt Bolton meets the original Krautrockers". The Guardian . Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  20. 1 2 Tewksbury, Drew (13 February 2013). "The Merciless Circularity of Beak". Los Angeles Magazine . Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  21. Segal, Dave. "German Guitar God Michael Rother Talks Kraftwerk, Neu!, and the Dubious Term "Krautrock"". The Stranger . Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  22. Horton, Ross. "Manchester's W. H. Lung pay a beautiful tribute to krautrock on "Simpatico People"". The Line of Best Fit . Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  23. 1 2 Smith, Stewart. "No Stars in Krautrock: David Stubbs' Future Days Reviewed". The Quietus . Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  24. Richardson, Mark. "Harmonia – Complete Works". Pitchfork . Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  25. 1 2 3 "Neu! – Neu! | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  26. Patrin, Nate. "Krautrock Playlist: 20 Essential Songs". Stereogum. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  27. Maconie, Stuart. "Krautrock: Germany's coolest export that no one can quite define". New Statesman . Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  28. "Top ten songs with the Motorik beat | Sick Mouthy". 6 August 2013. Archived from the original on 6 August 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  29. "The Quietus | Opinion | The Quietus Essay | How Motorik Infected The Mainstream, By Future Days Author David Stubbs". The Quietus. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  30. Buckley 2003, p. 566.
  31. 1 2 3 4 Stubbs, Dusty (2015). Future Days: Krautrock and the Birth of a Revolutionary New Music. Melville. ISBN   978-1-61219-474-5 . Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  32. Savage, Jon. "The in Sound From Way Kraut: A Kosmische Countdown". Red Bull Music Academy . Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  33. Morris, Chris. "How '70s Krautrock Changed The Shape of Modern Music". Music Aficionado. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  34. Adelt 2016, p. 10.
  35. Christgau, Robert (7 April 1975). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice . New York. ISSN   0042-6180 . Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  36. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Adelt 2016, p. 12.
  37. Adelt 2016, p. 11.
  38. 'Krautrock – Cosmic Rock and its Legacy' by David Stubbs, Erik Davis, Michel Faber and various contributing authors. Published 2009 by Black Dog Publishing Limited, London ISBN   978-1-906155-66-7
  39. Inc, Nielsen Business Media (29 May 1971). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.
  40. Macdonald, I. (December 1972). Krautrock: Germany calling #1, #2 and #3. London, UK: New Musical Express.
  41. Blühdorn, Annette (2003). Pop and Poetry – Pleasure and Protest: Udo Lindenberg, Konstantin Wecker and the Tradition of German Cabaret. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. p. 141. ISBN   978-0-8204-6879-2.
  42. Cope, Julian (1995). Krautrocksampler: One Head's Guide to the Great Kosmische Musik – 1968 Onwards . Yatesbury: Head Heritage. p.  64. ISBN   0-9526719-1-3.
  43. 1 2 3 4 5 Harden, Alexander C (31 December 2016). "Kosmische Musik and its Techno-Social Context". IASPM Journal. 6 (2): 154–173. doi:10.5429/2079-3871(2016)v6i2.9en . Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  44. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Adelt 2016.
  45. 1 2 3 Horn, David; Shepherd, John, eds. (2017). Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 177.
  46. Starfarer. "Hawkwind Quotations". Archived from the original on 7 April 2012.
  47. Buckley (2000): pp. 275–277.
  48. Pegg (2004): pp. 205–206.
  49. "Ash Ra Tempel – Ash Ra Tempel – Songs, Reviews, Credits – AllMusic". AllMusic.