It’s very on trend to be into German things at the moment isn’t it? What with the twenty year anniversary of the ‘fall of the wall’ - I’m sorry, but any historical event instantly looses it’s gravitas if it rhymes. No one would dare say ‘none could hide from the Rwandan genocide’, would they? - all things Germanic are currently in vogue and if you don’t drive an Audi, eat bratwurst, and consistently reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, you’re no one.

Moving with the times, the Big British Castle recently aired a documentary examining the history and origins of Krautrock, a genre of German experimental music which emerged in the early 1970s, and it was ace, or perhaps wunderbar! It is a rich and diverse musical movement that I previously knew practically nothing about. But despite the obvious merits of the doco, I’m betting most of you missed it, and here’s why.

1. It was on BBC4 - a TV channel for dads.

2. It was a documentary.

3. You though Krautrock was a type of German sausage and you don’t like cooking shows.

4. You probably had much better things to do with your time.

However, if you did miss out, for whatever reason, help is at hand as I have compressed an hour of aging German avant-guard musicians sitting around talking into a pithy, easy to digest, taster menu of Krautrock’s greatest hits.

After reading this article not only will your brain be full to bursting of tasty music, but you’ll be able to show off at parties by nodding along knowingly to some art school kid’s conversation, maybe leaning in to offer an informed observation like, ‘well of course if you’re looking for a great example of the Motorik beat, look no further than Hallogallo on NEU!’s eponymous 1971 debut’. What more do you need that that? In fact, a survey recently found that 85% of people admitted only reading War and Peace so they could show off to their mates afterward (although the same survey also revealed that 95% of statistics are made up).

However, if sounding clever in social situations isn’t something that interests then I guess you could read this article to discover some truly innovative and individual music, as Krautrock bands are sighted by all your favourite musician’s as big influence on their output, from Bowie and Eno, to Radiohead and The Fall.

So, sit back, put on your reading glasses and takeout your earplugs,  and enjoy this idiots guide to Krautrock (so called because it’s written by an idiot). Plus, open the accompanying SPOTIFY PLAYLIST to make your experience bi-sensual, if you want tri-sensual I can come round and occasionally slap you round the face while your reading.

Krautrock: A (laughably) brief history
Born out of the desire to break from Germany’s dark and bloody past, Krautrock was the collective name given to a experimental and innovative form of music created by young German artists seeking to create a new musical aesthetic in the late 60s and early 70s. However the term itself, Krautrock, was coined by the NME and UK music press who used the old war slang ‘kraut’ to pigeonhole this new wave of creative music coming from the east - demonstrating that xenophobia was alive and well.

Stylistically the Krautrock artists chose to reject the established western form of songwriting. The classic verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, key-change, pyrotechnic display, emotional breakdown, structure that is still X-factor’s bread and butter was seen even then as the stagnant status quo and these avant-guarde young Germans instead looked to improvisation and psychadelia, embracing jazz aesthetics and a mechanical themes.

They used the classic rock band set up (guitar, bass, drums), but experimented with new playing styles and embraced cutting edge electronic gadgets like samplers and synthesizers. The most original and recognisable sound in Krautrock is the repetitive 4/4 beat, which was given the mechanical moniker ‘motorik‘ - something you’ll hear a lot more about later.

But that’s enough back story, let’s listen to some music.

Click next page for a selection of the most important albums by the main movers and shakers within the movement. Prepare yourself for dangerous levels of experimentation, a relentless 4/4 beat, and lots and lots of synthesizers.