Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany

Krautrock: The Rebirth Of Germany. Part 1 of 6. Parts 2-6 posted under the cut.

Produced for BBC Four, this excellent hour-long documentary offers an engaging and comprehensive overview of the 60s/70s experimental music scene in Germany that came to be known as Krautrock. Here’s a fascinating glimpse of what it meant to be part of a generation of radical young musicians, artists and filmmakers struggling to redefine themselves in the rubble of post-war Germany. These kids were drowning in a sea of Schlager pop and classical schmaltz– arguably the music of cultural guilt and denial. Meanwhile, they had the most horrifying historical specters imaginable hanging over their heads. They were isolated, rebellious, and deeply disinterested in “traditional” anthemic western guitar rock. The synthesizer was newly invented, and electronic music as we know it today didn’t really exist yet. They breathed life into its lungs.

Featuring the works of Popol Vuh, Amon Düül, Can, Cluster, Neu!, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Faust and others.

14 Responses to “Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany”

  1. jen Says:

    well, how timely is this? i’ve been on a serious popol vuh kick, lately. thanks!

  2. nadmai Says:

    Ah, I remember being introduced to this music by a friend at university, he was a goth who wore red velvet jackets, had massive hair and spent his time painting whilst on acid. We spent our time in the cell-like rooms listening to Monster Movie and Phaedra on vinyl (the music, not us).

    Thanks Phil, you put me on a section of the musical bell curve so sparsely populated you only run into other inhabitants on the internet. I don’t regret it at all.

  3. db Says:

    Part of what makes this documentary so interesting is how much these bands were *not* a unified front, and how different (for instance) Popol Vuh, Kraftwerk and Amon Duul (and, for that matter, Duul I and II) were in their intentions and goals — on one level it’s pretty obvious when you play “Wehe Khorazin”, “Autobahn” and “Archangels Thunderbird” back to back that they’re three really different bands, but particularly for me (I got into this music in high school through, of all things, Joe Frank’s radio show Work In Progress) there was a tendency to view these bands as a kind of collective, which is true in some instances (Kluster and the Cosmic Jokers being good examples of cross-pollination) but not across the board — there’s a diversity there which often gets overlooked and which this documentary helps to clarify.

  4. life_inc Says:

    There was also an interesting program before this called Synth Britania. It showed how the Kraut rockers of Germany spawned all the new wave and industrial sorts. Throbbing Gristle to Gary Numan

  5. Richard Says:

    The documentary was both amazing and utterly tortuous – so much good music in the soundtrack and no idea where which band or album it comes from! Does anyone know what the track starting from 1.48 in the second part is?

  6. andy k Says:

    @ Richard. it’s the title track from Tangerine Dream’s album Phaedra, released in 1974

  7. andrew dalio Says:

    I really love the bands interviewed in the documentary (hate the term “Krautrock,” though.). I figure all the bands have different goals/sounds for the same reason The Ramones sound different than The Grateful Dead. Just because they’re from the same country they should all sound alike?

  8. R. Says:

    I have to give a big thank you for this. Wonderful.

  9. Mer Says:

    Jen, R, my pleasure. I was really inspired, watching this.

    life_inc, I gotta find that documentary. Is it online somewhere?

    Nadmai, I love that story! My first exposure to this stuff was around the same age… 18 or so, I think? A music professor introduced me to the wonderful world of 60s experimental electronic music. (The same fellow who later told me I should try picking up the theremin.)

    Listening to Popol Vuh for the first time sort of WAS like being on acid, for me. At that point, I’d only heard Eno, Tangerine Dream, Aphex Twin. I had no idea what I’d been missing. It was around the same point I discovered Herzog from a different college professor– a discovery that just completely recalibrated what was left of my already blown mind.

    I miss discoveries like that, but I keep rooting around, trying to find ’em. :)

    “Just because they’re from the same country they should all sound alike?”

    Oof, yeah, right? Definitely not! As db said, I think this doc did a great job of clarifying how unique and disparate the creators all were. I dislike the term Krautrock as well, as do many of the folks that got saddled with it. We do love compulsive pigeonholing as a species, don’t we? Alas, it’s the label that stuck.

  10. Dj Dead Billy Says:

    glad someone finally put this on youtube.

  11. Resonant Serpent Says:

    It was a great doc, but it had some glaring factual errors.

    Neu! was actually invited by Bowie to Berlin before he ever left the US, and they were to meet up at Hansa Studios to experiment and lay down tracks for new songs that would become Low, not Heroes. Bowie was in a legal battle with his management over money and in fact, that they hated that he moved to Berlin. The management thought Bowie was throwing his fame away. Management then called Neu! and told them that Bowie didn’t want them at the studio anymore, and at the same time, called Bowie and said that Neu! had called and that they didn’t want to work with him. It would be more than two decades before either would realize the deception.

    One small quibble is that I also felt like they played the ‘Germany in a bubble’ card too much. Several of the different band members have said they were highly aware of what was going on in Britain and American. Edgar Froese even credited Pink Floyd’s ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’ off 1968’s Saucerful of Secrets as the inspiration and blueprint for Tangerine Dream in early interviews.

  12. Nzinga Says:

    it seemed to end so suddenly…

  13. life_inc Says:

    Mer this is the first part of the doc i guess the rest must be on you tube linked to it :D

    Synth Britannia

  14. prog vinyl Says:

    Nice. I just heard about this documentary earlier this morning. I’m glad I was able to find it all in one place here. The BBC music documentaries are pretty great. Where else can we get people talking about Amon Duul II. Hurrah!