Tag Archives: Krautrock & The German Scene

Känguru

One of the first albums, that comes to mind, whenever I hear of the German so called Krautrock scene, is Guru Guru’s Känguru (1972). With its humorous cover, its heavy psychedelic jams and experiments, but also its catchier blues vibes. Känguru is a brilliant album, and a fine example of Kraut from one of the very early Krautrock bands.

Formed in 1968 as “The Guru Guru Groove”, and debuting in 1970 with UFO. Guru Guru is still active to this day, although many personnel changes have been made along the way, and different musical challenges have been explored. The driving force behind the band is drummer and vocalist, Mani Neumeier, already an established Jazz drummer at the time of the bands formation.

Mani Neumeier, have collaborated with a series of artist, mainly of German and Japanese origin, Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins), Acid Mothers Temple, Harmonia and Jazz musicians Irène Schweizer and Peter Brötzmann amongst others.

Acid Mothers Guru Guru (live 2009) : Makoto Kawabata – Mani Neumeier – Atsushi Tsuyama

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Gila – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Could there be such a thing as 70’s Psychedelic, Americana, folk/Krautrock. It’s hardly an established genre, but there is this one album, by Gila. “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.”

Gila was one of those lesser known German bands forming in late 60’s, to make just one album, Gila – Free Electric Sound (1971), an album of experimental Psychedelic/Stoner rock, sounding not unlike so many other German bands at the time. They disbanded in 1972.

In 1973 however the former Gila leader Guitarist and vocalist Conny Veit, reformed the band, with keyboard player Florian Fricke (Popol Vuh), drummer Daniel Fichelscher (Popol Vuh/Amon Dull II), and his girlfriend Sabine Merbach. Resulting in “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”. The music is far from what you would expect if you know the first Gila album, not the typical experimental, partly improvised, Floyd inspired acid, you get from most Krautrock bands, it sounds more like the music coming out from US in late 60’s early 70’s, Crosby Stills…, Jefferson, that sort of thing, melodic, well produced, relative short songs. A wonderful Progressive Folk/Rock album, as unexpected as it was from a German outfit of established krautrockers.

The theme of Native Americans, fighting an uneven battle against the US, made a lot of sense, in a time where Vietnam was carpet bombed with napalm.
From: Gila – Free Electric Sound (1971)

Popol Vuh, The German Temple of Music

This is Popol Vuh, the incarnation of spirituality, deepest deepness, naturally peace and beauty in music, a religious experience for those able to relax and take it in. Popol Vuh is about religion and spirituality, but not one particular religion, any religion.
From Letzte Tage – Letzte Nächte (1976)

After two electronic spacy albums, Popol Vuh changes dramatically, into something more acoustic, more organic. Hosianna Mantra (1972) is the birth, of a very different Popol Vuh, it lays the foundation of a now legendary band, with their very own sound and style, within the Krautrock scene.
From Hosianna Mantra (1972)

Popul Vuh is the creation of pianist Florian Fricke, he is the only permanent member, and like in many other 70’s progressive bands, members are changed regularly. With the change of member we also find a change in instrumentation, where we had no percussions on Hosianna Mantra, with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Daniel Fichelscherin 1973, percussions would become a dominant factor on the albums to come, making their sound become a bit less ambient.
From Das Hohelied Salomos 1975

In general Popul Vuh can hardly be called Rock in the traditional sense of the word, but their 1976 album Letzte Tage – Letzte Nachte have got something hard, something sharper at the edge, than their other albums. It sound a bit like the psychedelic tracks from Paul Kantner and Grace Slick’s Baron Von Tollbooth or Sunfighter, but that is another story.
From Letzte Tage – Letzte Nächte (1976)

Laying the seeds of Krautrock.

The early albums of the German scene.

The german rock scene, later labeled Krautrock by international press, began in early 70’s. Krautrock later turned out to be hugely influential, on many band and styles. Radiohead, The Fall, Joy Division, Public Image Ltd, David Bowie, Stereolab, John Frusciante, Sonic Youth, Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta, Deerhunter and Queens of the Stone Age are just some of the many major artists have cited Kraut, as an inspiration. The term Krautrock was not a reference to any one particular scene, style, or movement, anything from Germany that was considered experimental rock , was labeled Krautrock, making the term span over wide variations in style. Today I will listen to some the very first albums, pointing towards Krautrock, you may say the proto-kraut from the late 60’s german scene.
“Psychedelic Underground” is a sole album from Bokaj Retsiem’s, an experimental side project, from one of Germany’s many beat musicians of the time Rainer Degner, but it perfectly marks the transition from just playing an English / American beat music, to the development of a uniquely German experimental style.

BOKAJ RETSIEM 1968, from “Psychedelic Underground”

Another essential release for the development of German rock music, was “Ihre Kinder’s” self- titled debut, combining flute, protest songs founded in left wing politics, rock, and German language vocals. Ihre Kinder must be seen as an extremely early German progressive rock album, making it essential in German rock history.

Ihre Kinder – Ihre Kinder : Wenn Liebe das ist, 1969

Organisation’s “Tone Float”, was another one album wonder of early proto-krautrock, full name “Organisation zur Verwirklichung gemeinsamer Musikkonzepte” (Organization for the realization of common music concepts). The album points in the direction of the instrumental, the minimalistic and the electronic facets of Krautrock, with its slow and calm but highly experimental music.
After very low sales founding members Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben, left the band to form electronic Krautrock pioneers “Kraftwerk”.

Organisation – Tone Float (1969)

Amon Düül, was music improvised within an alternative-living project, a commune in Munich of radical hippies (also associated with members of what was to become the militant group Rote Armee Fraktion/Baader-Meinhof), their music was more just another free living expression, than the work of serious musical ambition, never the less their sessions, marks the first Krautrock put to record, with its experimental improvisations. The sound is not great, and the recording is mostly of historical interest.
Soon the better musicians from Amon Düül would be forming Amon Düül II, one of the major forces in early Kraut.
From Amon Dull’s “Psychedelic Underground” recorded 1968-69: