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Krautrock

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Krautrock

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Krautrock is a generic name for the experimental bands who appeared in Germany in the early 1970s. It was originally a derogatory term coined by the British music press from the slang term "Kraut" (in use mostly during WWII), meaning "a German person" and taken from the traditional German dish of pickled cabbage, Sauerkraut. However, because much of the music produced by these bands has since come to be very highly regarded, the term "krautrock" can now generally seen as an accolade rather than an insult. It must be noted that the term has not been in use for more than 30 years, indeed during the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s Kosmische musik, Elektronische musik, German electronic music and German prog rock were commonly used instead of krautrock.

Bands that typified the sound in the early 1970s included Tangerine Dream, Faust, Can and others associated with the celebrated Cologne-based producers and engineers Dieter Dierks and Conny Plank, such as Neu!, Kraftwerk and Cluster. Bands such as these were reacting against the post-WWII cultural vacuum in Germany and tending to reject Anglo-American popular culture in favour of creating their own more radical and experimental new German culture.

Mostly instrumental, the signature sound of krautrock mixed rock music and "rock band" instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums) with electronic instrumentation and textures, often with what would now be described as an ambient music sensibility. It also featured a pulsing rhythm section so steady that its practitioners dubbed it "motorik" -- a mongrel word meaning, roughly, "mechanical music."

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, incorporating, for the first time in popular music, 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. Music had taken a turn towards electronic avant-garde in the mid-1950s.

These factors all laid the scene for the explosion in what came to be termed krautrock, which arose at the first major German rock festival in 1968 in Essen. Like their American and British counterparts, German rock musicians played a kind of psychedelia. In contrast, however, there was no attempt to reproduce the effects of drugs, but rather an innovative fusion of psychedelia and the electronic avant-garde. That same year, 1968, saw the foundation of the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in Berlin by Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler, which further popularized the psychedelic-rock sound in the German mainstream.

Originally krautrock was a form of Free art, which meant that krautrock bands gave their records away for free at Free Art Fairs.

The next few years saw a wave of pioneering groups. In 1968, Can formed, adding jazz to the mix, while the following year saw Kluster (later Cluster) begin recording keyboard-based instrumental music with an emphasis on static drones. In 1971, the bands Tangerine Dream and Faust began using electronic synthesizers and advanced production techniques to make what they called kosmische musik. The band Ash Ra Tempel and the related Cosmic Jokers project also began experimenting with these new sounds.

In 1972, two albums incorporated European rock and electronic psychedelia with Asian sounds: Popol Vuh's In Den Gaerten Pharaos and Deuter's Aum. Meanwhile, kosmische musik saw the release of two double albums, Klaus Schulze's Cyborg and Tangerine Dream's Zeit (produced by Dieter Dierks), while a band called Neu! began to play highly rhythmic music. By the middle of the decade, one of the most well-known German bands, Kraftwerk, had released albums like Autobahn and Radio-Activity, which laid the foundation for electro, techno and other styles later in the century.

The release of Tangerine Dream's Phaedra in 1974 marked a divergence of that group from krautrock to a more melodic sequencer-driven sound that was later termed Berlin School. In that same year Klaus Schulze delivered one more LP of pure krautrock (Blackdance) before pursuing a similar musical trajectory to Tangerine Dream.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the resurgence of electronic music and a new generation rediscovering much of the early work of German music in that period, krautrock came to be considered a style in and of itself. Contemporary post-rock and electronica artists such as Stereolab, Laika, Boredoms, Mouse on Mars, Radiohead and Tortoise have often cited bands in the krautrock canon as being among their more significant influences; some of these bands have also performed covers of seminal krautrock works, such as Radiohead's cover of Can's The Thief.

Krautrock has also undoubtedly influenced other genres of rock - the band Wilco, for instance, shows a growing krautrock influence in their music, specifically on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and several songs on A Ghost is Born (especially Spiders (Kidsmoke)). In interviews Jeff Tweedy (the band's leasd singer/songwriter/guitarist) has often mentioned his admiration for bands such as Can and Neu!.

Julian Cope, the Arch-Drude has always cited a massive krautrock influence, even going as far as to write a book on the subject.

Samples

Notable artists

Amon Düül I
Amon Düül II
Ash Ra Tempel
Audience
Birth Control
Brainticket
Can
Cluster
Cosmic Jokers
Holger Czukay
Dies Irae
Eloy
Faust
Guru Guru
Harmonia
Jane
Kraftwerk
La Düsseldorf
Neu!
Popol Vuh
Klaus Schulze
Tangerine Dream
Troya
Thirsty Moon
Wallenstein
Witthüser & Westrupp

External links


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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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