Showing posts with label Krautrock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Krautrock. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The term Krautrock refers, following the concise definition provided by Michael Jarrett, to “a genre of German experimental rock that originated in sixties psychedelia (Faust), culminated in seventies electro-pop (Kraftwerk), and influenced new wave (New Order and PIL), rap (Afrika Bambaataa), and ambient-techno musics (Orb)” (138). “Kraut,” derived from the name of a food largely associated with Germany, sauerkraut (sour cabbage), is a racial slur for a German, just as “frog” is racial slang for a Frenchman because of his supposed dietary preference for frog legs. (Food is one of the primary means by which rival cultures distinguish themselves from one another—see Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked).

As a designation for a particular genre of music, the word Krautrock seems to have originated in Britain, where the music influenced numerous synth-based bands in the late 70s and early 80s. Eventually, Julian Cope, once a member of the band The Teardrop Explodes, authored a book, published slightly over a decade ago, titled Krautrocksampler (1995), an appreciation and survey of the music, which includes an annotated appendix consisting of 50 Kosmische Classics.

Krautrock—one of the few forms of music the designation for which is derived from a racial slur—defines itself by being the antithesis of schlager, a German word meaning “hitter” or “a hit.” According to, schlager is

a style of popular music that is prevalent in northern Europe, in particular Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Latvia and Lithuania, but also to a lesser extent in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Typical schlager tracks are either sweet, highly sentimental ballads with a simple, catchy melody or light, pleasant, throwaway pop tunes. Its lyrics are typically centered [on] love . . . relationships, and feelings.

Hence Julian Cope’s list of 50 Kosmische Classics is comprised not of (pop) songs but entire albums, the LP the privileged medium, in this case, over the 45 rpm single. Defined against schlager, Krautrock is much more than a matter of a supposedly superior medium. For instance, given its bias for the LP-based format, it prefers long, instrumental tunes as opposed to those with vocals, but also prefers (listed as a series of oppositions, with the privileged term on the left, the feature of schlager on the right):

The long song – The short song (generally)
Composition – Performance
Varied arrangements – Repetitive arrangements
Male band members – Female or integrated band members
Virtuosic (professional) playing – Non-virtuosic (amateur) playing
Cool, “distant” – Sentimental
Restrained – Florid
For listening – For dancing
Industrial ("metal machine," factory) – Lyrical

I’ll refer readers to the aforementioned webpage listing Julian Cope’s 50 favorite Krautrock recordings; in addition, I’ll recommend the following (on compact disc):

V/A – Space Box: Space, Krautrock and Acid Trips (Cleopatra)
V/A – Unknown Deutschland: The Krautrock Archive, Vol. I (Virgin)