Krautrock (also called kosmische Musik, German: cosmic music is a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s[ among bands that blended elements of psychedelic rock, electronic music, and various avant-garde influences. These artists largely distanced themselves from the blues influences and song structure of traditional Anglo-American rock music, instead utilizing hypnotic rhythms, tape music techniques, and early synthesizers. Prominent groups associated with the krautrock label included Neu!, Can, Faust, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh, Amon Düül II, Tangerine Dream, and Harmonia.
The term “krautrock” was coined by British music journalists in the early 1970s as a humorous umbrella label for the diverse German scene, though many so-labeled artists disliked the term. The movement was partly born out of the student movements of 1968, as German youth sought a unique countercultural identity] and popular music distinct from American pop and traditional German music. The period contributed to the development of ambient music and techno, and influenced subsequent genres such as post-punk, new-age music, and post-rock.
Origins and influences
Krautrock is a broad label encompassing diverse sounds and artists that emerged in West Germany during the 1960s and early 1970s. The music was partially inspired by broad cultural developments such as the revolutionary 1968 German student movement, with many young people having both political and aesthetic concerns. Youth rebelled against both dominant American influence and conservative German entertainment like schlager music, seeking to liberate themselves from Germany’s Nazi legacy in World War II and create a new popular culture. Dieter Moebius of the bands Cluster and Harmonia explained that “as young people we were not very proud to be German. The reason why this movement of ‘Krautrock’ was born was because we were all tired of listening to bad German music and imitations of American music. Something had to happen. Jean-Hervé Peron of Faust said: “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.”
A German student protest from 1968
The style saw artists unify elements of varied genres such as psychedelic rock, avant-garde forms of electronic music, funk rhythm, jazz improvisation and “ethnic” music styles. Core influences on these German artists included composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and bands the Mothers of Invention, the Velvet Underground, and Pink Floyd, according to writer Jon Savage. According to John Peel, the only American or British band to “clearly influence” the genre was Pink Floyd, particularly for their “spacey music”. Radio presenter Jim Backhouse contrasted the genre’s “genuine sense of awe and wonder” to the more cynical approach of influence Frank Zappa. Other influences included American minimalists such as Tony Conrad, Terry Riley, and La Monte Young, as well as the late ’60s albums of jazz musician Miles Davis. Some artists drew on ideas from 20th century classical music and musique concrète, particularly composer 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 were drawn to a more mechanical and electronic sound. See for more.