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THE ESSENTIAL Krautrock

The deluge of truly experimental music that came out of Germany in the early 70s gave the sonic envelope a good pushing like never before. Gary Tipp drones on…

The name krautrock is an umbrella term given to the broad genre of music created by a multitude of German bands in the early 70s. Reportedly, the faintly pejorative phrase was doled out by one of the hacks working in the UK music press at the time: it is what is, and it stuck. Needless to say, at the time, the musicians in these groups certainly didn’t think of themselves as being in a krautrock band creating krautrock music. Ultimately, krautrock was always far more an attitude than it ever was a style.

An alternative name oThen used is ‘kosmische musik’ (cosmic music) and the bands involved were uncompromisingly committed to expanding the existing frontiers of art and music. West Germany was still in the aThershock of World War II and the younger generation were searching for sonic innovation and unique sounds of their own. The one path these bands knew they didn’t want to tread was the song-based rock ‘n’ roll formula of their British and American counterparts. To this end, many of the German bands were in thrall of electronics, early synthesisers, tape collages and sound manipulation.

There was an emphasis on epically extended instrumentals with minimal, hypnotic motifs; there were no sub-threeminute pop songs being manufactured here. Similarly, their inspiration wasn’t gained from cars and girls, but from exotic sources such as Eastern mysticism, science fiction, the mechanics of industry and, of course, mind-bending hallucinogens.

But we mustn’t get into the business of homogenising these groups under one banner, as the spirit of krautrock helped develop many diTherent musical strands and scenes under the one banner. From cosmic synthscapes to brain-frying space rock, categorisation is futile.

The most fruitful years of the krautrock scene cover a short period, and you’ll find many releases in our list dating from 1970 to 1975. Lots of the albums we look at didn’t receive a UK release, as the music took some time to permeate the senses over here; in fact, it’s still permeating, so where stated, we look at the first presses in Germany, many on legendary labels such as Brain and Ohr.

Each band is limited to one entry, which when you examine the fêted discographies of legendary acts such as Can, Neu!, Faust, Amun Düül and Ash Ra Tempel is a dificult trick, but is done because we want to introduce you to as many artists as possible…

MOVIES

HOLGER CZUKAY (1979)

Can’s bass player studied under the tutelage of avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and his first solo album after departing the group is as exploratory as you would expect. With extended prog-rock jams textured with samples from film, television and shortwave radio, you could file next to Byrne and Eno’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, if you were so inclined.

Rarest 1979 EMI £20 Latest 2016 Groenland Records £15

LORD KRISHNA VON GOLOKA

SERGIUS GOLOWIN (1973)

Maverick producer Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser is the man responsible for this classic krautrock curiosity, as he persuaded the new-age guru Sergius Golowin to record an album about Krishna. Backed by Klaus Schulze and assorted members of Wallenstein, the resultant record is as experimental and far, far out there as you might expect.

£ Rarest 1973 Die Kosmischen Kuriere £150/£175 Latest 2013 Ohr Today £20

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