There has been a “genre” of music that has been influencing musicians around the world in a way that can really be described as “stealth”. It has influenced rock music, dance music and hip hop over the last 30 years without many people realising its existence.
It has influenced the likes of Radiohead, The Fall, Blur, Kasabian, Oasis, Happy Mondays and Wilco to name just a tiny few. Crudely speaking it’s called “Krautrock”, “kraut” having a few translations such as “weed” or even a racial slur, but was the term coined by the UK music press (who else!). But don’t let the tag tarnish the intelligence that the genre possesses.
From the late 1960’s there were a number of artists in Western Germany who were fed up with the conventions of rock and pop music they listened to around the world, and in particular in Germany. They wanted to move themselves away from the bad memories of Germany’s then recent past, and look to the future.
Groups were made up of people with musical backgrounds, as well as those without any musical knowledge, and together experimented. They toyed with the conventions of rock music by mixing progressive rock, psychedelic rock, folk and early synthesizers to come up with something new. Who knew that it would lead to something that has influenced the world ever since?
The most notable name to come from this movement is Kraftwerk, one of the forefathers of digitally created music. They have influenced dance producers, rock and pop musicians and have been sampled by hip-hop producers dating back to the early days of hip-hop.
The other powerhouse names from “Krautrock” are Neu!, who were ex-members of Kraftwerk and who pioneered the “motorik” beat; Can, who brought together an incredible blend of rock, jazz and funk as only Germans can (no pun intended), and Faust who kept pushing the boundaries further than anyone else in the scene.
If you dig down further then you will discover real gems from the likes of Harmonia (a “supergroup” featuring Neu’s Michael Rother as well as Brian Eno at one point), Amon Düül 2, Tangerine Dream (probably known for their soundtrack work), Cluster and Roedelius to name a few.
So much can be written about “Krautrock”. Just bare winess to the plethora of books and even the BBC documentary, but for the best experience it’s best to just check out the artists and get lost in the music. Here are some great places to start your collections:
If you like exploring your music history then this is a wonderfully rewarding genre to explore with plenty of really decent albums to find. Some of it is quite “out there” I admit, especially for its time, but that’s what made it so great. Also check out our Krautrock essentials list, all part of our ‘Music Around the World’ collection.
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