It’s been a long, long time since I’ve delved my toes into the waters of the genre that is known as Krautrock. I first became aware of the music back when I was a student at Houston Community College in the fall of 2005 when I went to the ProgArchives website and discovered bands/artists from the realms of NEU!, Can, Faust, Amon Duul II, and Tangerine Dream. It was like nothing I have ever heard before. It was dark, sinister, avant-garde, proto-punk, atmospheric, musique-concrete, and the music itself, was completely off the wall.
I would later find out that some of the bands/artists like Julian Cope, who wrote the Krautrocksampler book in 1994, John Lydon of PiL, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Magazine, Ultravox, Devo, Joy Division, and The Mars Volta admired some of the bands that were like a tidal wave that was waiting to happen. Now in the year of our lord 2020, Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt, who have done incredible work on the Romantic Warriors series since 2010, are now doing the Krautrock genre as a three-part trilogy.
Starting things off is Part 1 of the documentary from Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Hamburg. It tackles some of the histories of the bands with interviews that include; Irmin Schmidt, Gunther Buskies of the Bureau B label, Damo Suzuki, members of Floh De Cologne and Faust, Michael Rother, Stephan Plank (Conny Plank’s son), Malcolm Mooney, Wolfgang Flur, Eberhard Kraneman, and the late Jaki Liebezeit to name a few.
There is an incredible moment in the film where Damo Suzuki’s Network is performing in Peru doing this amazing improvisational groove as he calls them “sound carriers”. The reason for that is that Damo himself wants to perform with traditional musicians by working together and bringing world music with any kind of instrument that is very different from his time with Can.
And you may never know what might happen on stage. But for Damo, he is free from anything he wants to, but having his own philosophy with music. Rother is perhaps one of the best interviews that Adele and Jose did. You could tell that he was very spot on about his time as an early member of Kraftwerk. However, there was tension between Dinger and Florian Schenider over creative differences on where they want to take the next level. And so, Klaus and Michael departed from the band and would later form NEU! And then with Harmonia.
Miki Yui is an archivist on the late Klaus Dinger, knows her stuff very well about the history of the band’s music while Rother saw that Klaus had potential in Michael’s arrangments and the time they worked with Conny Plank on those first three studio albums by creating an atmosphere, but taking the risks that would be challenging. For Stephan to see his father work on those albums, was as he mentioned when he was young, almost as if his Dad, was working on a spaceship.
But listening to NEU, it was the beginnings of what is known as Punk Rock. As Eberhard Kraneman described it as “Anti-Music” during that time he was with the band performing with them with some intensity. But when NEU’s second album came out, it got terrible reviews. Which I had no idea about. And it must’ve been very frustrating for them to get reviews like that and the two drummers between Hans Lampe and Thomas Dinger who would later form La Dusseldorf worked on the second side of NEU! 75.
And you can tell that David Bowie took a lot of inspiration on NEU’s third album on what would be known as his 12th studio album for his Berlin trilogy, Heroes. Not to mention watching a rare interview with Klaus Dinger I believe from 1975 in Germany. When I think of Faust in the documentary, I think of their music as insane, out of this world, and surreal Dadaism.
The Faust Tapes when I first heard it in 2006, I consider it to be Faust’s answer to Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica and their nod to the Velvet Underground with the pounding tribal sections of the opening track, It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl from their second album, So Far. Jean-Harve Peron has a wonderful history about the origin of the band’s name and their late producer Uwe Nettlebeck, who was German’s answer to Tony Wilson.
They talk about the history of their time in Wumme where they recorded So Far, The Faust Tapes, and their collaboration with avant-garde composer Tony Conrad on Outside the Dream Syndicate from 1972 to 1973. This was for me, one of the best first parts of the documentaries covering the big names in the Krautrock genre. It almost makes me want to go back and take out some of those albums in my CD shelves to see what I was missing.
And new bands like Electric Orange and Wume, are following in the footsteps of the genre. I feel like I’ve learned a little bit more about what I was missing from those bands and artists from that time period in the 1970s. Very much like giving the bloated sounds of Dream Theater, Nickelback, and the boring pretentious horseshit of the top 40 hits you hear on the radio, the big giant middle finger. Krautrock is here to stay. And I can’t wait for both parts 2 and 3.
In the words of Julian Cope’s introduction on the Krautrocksampler book, “Krautrock transcended all this and more. Because it had to.”