|Etymology||Derives from "kraut"|
|Cultural origins||Late 1960s – early 1970s, West Germany|
Krautrock (also called "kosmische Musik", German: "cosmic music") is a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in Germany in the late 1960s. The term "krautrock" was originated by English-speaking music journalists as a humorous name for a diverse range of German bands whose music drew from sources such as psychedelic rock, the avant-garde, electronic music, funk, minimalism, jazz improvisation, and world music styles.
Largely divorced from the traditional blues and rock and roll influences of British and American rock music up to that time, the period contributed to the evolution of electronic music and ambient music as well as the birth of post-punk, alternative rock and New Age music. Important acts of the scene include Can, Kraftwerk, Neu!, Amon Düül II, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh, and Faust.
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, it should be noted that "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" ("cosmic music"), a marketing name invented by record producer Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser for krautrock bands like Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze. 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 merges elements of psychedelic rock, the avant-garde, electronic music, funk, improvisational jazz 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."
The key component characterizing such groups is the synthesis of rock and roll rhythm and energy with a decided will to distance themselves from specifically American blues origins, drawing on German or other sources instead. Jean-Hervé Peron of Faust says: "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." According to Peel, the only American or British band to "clearly influence" the genre was England's Pink Floyd, particularly for their "spacey music".
Some artists drew on ideas from contemporary experimental classical music (especially minimalism and composer Karlheinz 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.
A common rhythm featured in the music was a steady 4/4 beat, often called "motorik". It is characterised by a bass 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.
|Cultural origins||Early 1970s, West Germany|
Kosmische Musik ("cosmic music") is an associated style of 1970s German electronic music that uses synthesizers and incorporates themes related to space and otherworldliness. The term came into regular use before "krautrock", though it is now sometimes used synonymously. The style was often instrumental and characterized by "spacy," ambient soundscapes. Kosmische 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 term "kosmische Musik" was coined by Edgar Froese in the liner notes of Tangerine Dream's 1971 album Alpha Centauri. 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. 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.
Background and origins
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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. Avant-garde music had taken a turn towards the electronic in the mid-1950s. The avant-garde minimalist music current emerged in the early 1960s with the works of Americans La Monte Young, Terry Riley and Steve Reich. They used drones and loops (often with synthesizers and tapes) in a kind of psychedelic and space-oriented music.
These 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. Their sound was an innovative fusion of jazz and the electronic avant-garde.[not in citation given]
The next few years saw a wave of pioneering groups. In 1968 two former students of Karlheinz Stockhausen formed Can, adding jazz to the mix. (In that way the krautrock scene can be seen to parallel the Canterbury scene emerging in England at the same time.) The following year saw Kluster (later Cluster) begin recording keyboard-based electronic instrumental music with an emphasis on static drones.
Legacy and influence
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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 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.
List of artists
- Amon Düül II
- Ash Ra Tempel
- Harald Grosskopf
- Guru Guru
- Harmonia (band)
- La Düsseldorf
- Popol Vuh
- Klaus Schulze
- Damo Suzuki
- Tangerine Dream
- Thirsty Moon
- Xhol Caravan
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