Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Krautrock is a generic name for the experimental bands who appeared in Germany in the early 1970s. It was originally a somewhat derogatory term coined by the British music press from the slang term "Kraut", 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' is now generally seen as an accolade rather than an insult.
Typical bands dubbed 'krautrock' in the early 1970s included Tangerine Dream, Faust, Can, and others associated with the celebrated Cologne-based producer and engineer 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.
Rock and roll itself arose in the United States in the 1940s, and spread across the world beginning in about 1956. Though American rock was popular in Germany at the time, especially rockabilly stars like Bill Haley & His Comets, there were few German performers.
1960s and 70s: Krautrock
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.
By the end of the 1960s, however, much had changed. 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 student riots in Germany, France and Italy 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 at 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 you could buy Krautrock bands' records for free at Free Art Fairs.
The next few years saw a wave of pioneering groups. In 1969, Can formed, adding jazz to the mix, while the following year saw Kluster begin recording keyboard-based instrumental music with an emphasis on static drones. In 1971, the bands Tangerine Dream and Faust used electronic synthesizers and advanced production techniques to make what they called kosmische musik.
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, komische musik saw the release of two double albums, Klaus Schulze's Irrlicht and Tangerine Dream's Zeit, 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.
1990s German rock
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. Artists such as Stereolab, Laika, Boredoms, Mouse on Mars, and Tortoise working under the post-rock and electronica rubrics have often cited bands in the Krautrock canon as being among their more significant influences.
Main article: Hamburger Schule
Hamburger Schule (School of Hamburg) is a underground music-movement that started at the late 1980s and was still active til around the mid 1990s. It has similar traditions as Neue Deutsche Welle and mixed all that with Punk, Grunge and experimental Pop music. Hamburger Schule is (and was) an important part of Germany's youth and and gave pop a new definition, as now it was "ok" (or "cool") to sing in German language. Hamburger Schule is also about intellectual lyrics with postmodern theories and social criticism.
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